An art show is a fantastic way to jumpstart your art career. The best way to ensure that your foray into the world of art shows is successful is to do plenty of research in advance. What, in particular, do you need to research in order to be successful at an art show? We’ve broken art show readiness down into four categories. Once you’ve covered these bases, you’ll be ready to make a killing at your first art show!
What kind of art show should I attend?
The first thing to determine is what kind of art show or craft fair is a good fit for your business. Read this post for a detailed breakdown of the main differences between art shows and craft fairs: What’s the Difference Between an Art Show and a Craft Fair? In terms of general value one is not superior to the other, but the difference between the two can be really significant for your business. If you’re artfully handcrafting upcycled jewelry, you’re may be exhibiting at a very different show from someone who creates abstract paintings. Once you’ve determined what type of show your work belongs in, there are (at least) 10 questions you should ask before filling out an application: Should You Exhibit in That Art Show? 10 Questions to Ask.
In addition to a basic understanding of the right type of show for your business, you need to develop a discernment for good shows. There are several scenarios where a poorly run art show may be a drain on your money and time, or a well-run art show may be a poor fit for you and thus an unwise investment of your finite resources. How do you determine whether that art show you’re considering is a bad idea? We have some tips for you here: Is an Art Show Ever a Bad Idea?
What do I need for an art show?
(should we have a brief item list here of things you need? Affiliate links?)
Now that you’ve done the initial research into what kind of art show is a good fit for you and you better understand how to determine whether or not a show is going to benefit your business, you’re ready to begin applying for shows! Now the question becomes: can I afford this show? Attending an art show is not free. From booth supplies, marketing materials and the cost of prints and merchandise to the application and registration fees, art shows can run you several hundreds- if not thousands- of dollars. They can also make you a beautiful profit, if you know what you’re doing, but you’ll need to start by doing the math: How Much Does it Cost to Attend an Art Fair?
Owen Garratt, the profoundly successful artist behind The Pencilneck, offers a great course on finding success with art shows that we highly recommend: The Ultimate Guide to Profitable Art Shows. You may also want to check out our interview with him: What a $1 Million Art Business Looks Like with Owen Garratt
Do I have to go to the top art shows to “make it”?
If you wish, you can attend only smaller local shows your whole life and still make a good career selling art. Whether your ambitions are lofty or not, it’s essential that you find your niche in order to find your ideal audience both online and in person. (Not sure how? Check out this post: Internet Niche Hunting: How to Find Your Audience.) If you want to dip your toes into the high-end art world that’s your choice, and it’s not required. If you’re interested in that trajectory for your career, we put together a list of the top fine art shows across the country: The Top 9 Fine Art Shows in the Country. It’s also helpful to follow the careers of other artists on a similar path in order to learn how they did it. Check out our interview with Sara O’Connor, a lawyer-turned-artist who in two years rocketed from showing in church basement craft fairs to exhibiting nationally in some of the most prestigious shows in the country.
How to sell successfully at art shows
There’s no “secret sauce” to making your business profitable at art shows. But there are some art show practices that all of the most successful artists have in common. Foremost among those is choosing the correct shows and working out the numbers, as discussed above. When it comes to actually exhibiting, make sure you’re well versed in the following things:
- Be prepared to follow up. The majority of your sales should actually occur after the show, from following up with contacts you made at the show and nurturing those contacts until they become raving fans. Read up on how to nurture your contacts through email marketing: Email Marketing for Artists: The Ultimate Free Guide
- Brush up on your sales skills. Artists are famous for being introverted and sometimes a bit awkward, but if you’re going to show up to art shows you’ll need to know a bit about selling in person. Check out our guides on Active Listening and your Unique Value Proposition, as well as What Artists Can Learn From a Door-to-Door Salesman.
- Pay attention to your body language. Are you communicating confidence and competence with your body language? With a little practice, you can. Seal the Deal with Body Language.
- Create work in a series. This is essential to appealing to collectors in a memorable way. Take some time before you start applying for art shows to ensure that the work you create is part of a recognizable series. Here’s more on why you should create artwork in series: Creating Art in a Series.