Last weekend I was at Epsom downs Racecourse for Art Surrey. This was a new event, well organised and supported by a fabulous team of people. There were around 80 artists taking part with all sorts of work from landscape to figurative, pencil drawing to works in biro and plasticine. There was really something for everyone.
This was my third art fair, I’ve previously done Manchester and Bath. This one for me was a struggle, I didn’t really sell much until Sunday afternoon and I thought that this time, I’d be returning home out of pocket. Thankfully on Sunday afternoon I sold enough work to come away in profit. But was it worth it?
Booking an art fair certainly provides a date on the calendar to prepare work for. That’s really motivating for your practice. It’s also great when you’re at the event as you get to meet other artists and share your experiences with each other. It’s also really nice to get to meet your audience and hear how they respond to your work.
In the build up to the show however there is a lot of work to do, preparing all the labelling and prices, gathering all your stand dressing props, tools, business cards, flyers etc. And while it’s not true for everyone, I also have to organise framing for my work. This comes at an enormous cost so it’s important that I choose the right pieces to be framed for the show.
Reflecting on the three shows that I’ve done, which were all very different, I’d say I’m still undecided about whether I continue down this path. Many artists tell me it’s important to do the art fairs because it gives you exposure, it’s important to be seen, you’ll get follow-up commissions after the show.
However, I’m not entirely convinced that this is the case, particularly if you don’t sell well during the event and you have to drive home knowing you’ve made a loss. In my opinion, it is not a good investment if you can’t at least breakeven.
Being involved in an art fair does give you the sense of community for a short period of time. It is an opportunity to meet other artists and share experiences. Ultimately, though, I still believe that, unless you walk away with a profit, it isn’t a valuable experience.
Being a self-employed artist means that in addition to being creative, you also are required to be a business person too. It’s no good, being creative, if you can’t find an audience for your work. For some artists, I firmly believe the art fair is a great vehicle to find an audience. However, if at some point in the future I find myself in the position of attending an art fair and coming away without a profit, I think I’ll seriously have to consider if this is the right way for me to continue
In the meantime, I’m already on the path of preparation for my next Art fair. I’ll be attending Manchester Art Fair again this year and I’m really interested to see how it goes this year. Last year, it was my first ever art fair and I came away with a very healthy profit. So I’m intrigued to see how I’ll perform this year.
for now at least I’m invested in the art fairs. My online reach is still small and provides unreliable sales. This is even though I used several selling platforms. In addition to my own website. I’m still yet to gain real interest from galleries I’m really just not sure they get this art form, so for now, at least the art fair provides me with an opportunity for good sales, some exposure, an opportunity to extend my community of fellow practitioners, and grow my audience.