Art Fairs -To Exhibit or not to Exhibit, That is the Question????

Okay so I want to talk about the pros and cons to exhibiting at art fairs from my experience.I want to help artists to come to the right decision for themselves, with regards to exhibiting at an art fair such as the Parralax art fair in Chelsea, London. I have now been back from London for a couple of months, and I wrote down a few brief pros and cons which you can read about, if you click this link. 

Before the Parrallax, I will be honest, I was in quite a dither about a lot of things to do with the actual fair. I had so many questions competing with each other in my head.

  • How big should each art painting be?
  • Do I go super huge and will the art lovers attending the fair actually spend what I would be charging for each art painting?
  • Do I frame each artwork? That question alone can open up a whole new arena of questions itself!!
  • Then there was wondering about hanging etiquette like if you should use special screws and nails. the list was absolutely endless. In the end I think I was boring myself stupid over it all.



So how big should each painting be?

In the end I played it safe and the majority of my paintings were 16inches x12inches as I didn’t want to price myself out of any sales. With some of my bigger paintings at the moment, I am not ready to sell them just yet, as hand on heart, the time just isn’t right.

To Frame your paintings or not to Frame, that is the Question?

In the end I did frame some of my canvas paintings and I also sprayed some of the paintings with a high shine gloss, to make them stand out really nicely. But did I go and spend an absolute fortune on the frames? In a nutshell, no, as there are some beautiful art frames you can buy in your local retail shops. Besides if you go to a specialist framer you can be parting with some serious cash, and I don’t mean ten or twenty pounds. Your purse can be potentially a few hundred pounds lighter and the crystal ball has not even predicted any sales.

 You need a bottomless pit of money if you want to be exhibiting at art fairs.

I say this for so many reasons. Before the event, the geography was not on my side. I am a Manchester Artist (view my Manchester’s here or here) and the Parralax was in London. Because I was so organised the return fair on the train was only Twenty or so pound. On top of that, you must also make sure you can get around London okay and even though the tube is considered cheap, it all does add up. On top of that, you also need to eat!!

Take into account that you will also need to book into a hotel or B and B. Even if you do this on a budget a cheap B and B in London will put you back £70 pound or so a night, and this will not really get you much in the way of luxury. Think a cold room with a very thin mattress and you are on your way to what you get for your pounds.


The Extra Hidden Extras to be aware of When Exhibiting at Art Fairs, in my Experience.

So before you even get to your art fair, the organisers, have lots of options available for you, and obviously these options all come with a price tag attached to them. I didn’t go for the biggest stand, as you can see in the pictures here. My stand, if memory serves me right, was about £80. There was the option to be listed in the parrallax catalogue, where you upload your art paintings to. I think this was about £70. In all honesty, I am still not sure what purpose this was for. The question that hangs over my head, is, was this for the art lovers attending the fair? I am still not sure. All I know is that, nothing seemed to come from it.

Then the Paralax mentioned Facebook advertising, but you guessed it, that wasn’t free. The cheapest option was £50 rising upwards to £100. The Advice was basically, that it was well worth advertising, as potential buyers could see your work on social media, even before they came to the event.  Looking at the event before hand, there were lots of pictures and videos the general public attending the art fairs, but over the weekend, it did have some busy patches. In between the busy periods, there were times of silence though.



Ask yourself these questions before you part with your hard earned cash at the art fairs

People did come and take a look at my paintings, but please ask yourself if the people that are looking at the artworks, are they just window shoppers or art collectors. I had so much good feedback on my paintings, which massaged my ego nicely, but the people I spoke to didn’t purchase my work. It could have been a lot  worse though, as many artists at the art fair had come from further a field, Europe and Down Under. Other Artists had also purchased bigger stands to display their artwork on, obviously costing more money. The artists from further a field, with large paintings, will have no doubt had to ship or fly their artwork and this wouldn’t even account for them having it packaged safely.

What happened after Exhibiting at the Parralax Art Fairs

So after the art fair, itself I met some great fellow artists who I have kept in touch with, and some of the advice they gave me was useful. I did have a few emails that seemed positive on the surface. There was an online Magazine who wanted to write about my artwork for something like £100. There was an Interior magazine that wanted to feature a small picture of one of my paintings with a few words besides it, for a fair bit of money.

Lastly an art gallery got in touch with me, with regards to exhibiting my paintings. At first I was very much, over the moon with this, as they said they loved my paintings. As an Emerging Artist you do have dreams on galleries asking to exhibit your work,as you think they will have all the necessary contacts, so your career can take off.    As I continued to read the email, after a ton of ego massaging, I found out they only wanted to exhibit my artwork for two weeks. That was the first down point, as I would want my work to be there until it sells.

On top of this I would have to of pay them to exhibit my art works. This would cost me a whopping £450 and  45% commission on any sales made. Reading many articles on this, I found out that these art galleries are called Vanity Art Galleries, and most writers who discussed these types of galleries, stated that once they have your money, there is really no vested interest in them trying to sell your work. On the whole it also felt like I was a cash cow, and underlying all the above, just how greedy was the gallery trying to be? Would there also be extra hidden costs, such as getting my work framed using framers they recommend? Lots of unanswered questions here, as this is one thing I knew I wouldn’t pursue.

So Art fairs, to be or not to be????

I can honestly now say, in my experience and after waiting some time to see if anything would come of the art fair, I wouldn’t actually do it again. I came home tired and poorer, and every lead after the event came with its own price tag.

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