Top Tips: Preparing For Your First Art Fair

By Fiona Jones | 16 August, 2016

The number of art fairs have risen by around 396% since 2008 and with more than 200 art fairs world wide, fairs have become a vital part of the art market. They have evolved into big, bold glamorous art happenings, offering VIP private views, artist talks and most importantly an invaluable networking opportunity. Unfortunately all of this glitz and glamour comes with a hefty price tag, with many booths costing upwards of £700 you need to make sure to get the most of your art fair experience. With many art fairs on the horizon we have taken it upon ourselves to compile a “to-do” list to help keep you on track...

1. What are your goals?
What do you want to achieve? Are you attending the fair to generate sales? As a networking opportunity to meet new galleries? Are you looking to test the waters with a new style of work? With all of this in mind make sure you center all of your plans and energy into your goals, whatever they may be.

2. What are you going to be selling?
This may seem like common sense but it's definitely worth taking the time to think about this. Many fairs have specific rules on what you can/can't sell (prints for example) - so make sure to read up. If you're selling originals make sure you have enough spare art to fill any blank spaces on the wall when you sell a piece of work. Set realistic sales goals and do everything you can to stick to them.

3. How are you going to display your products?
Framed? Ready-To-Hang? Boxed Canvas? Find out the dimensions and description of your booth. Is the wall space adequate for the sizes of your work, if so how many will you fit? How will you be hanging your work? Do you have enough hardware?  Does it come with the stand?  Make sure you have all you need ready to go to keep your stress to a minimum when setting up. 

""When you're at the fair, be engaging, be friendly and take an interest in your customers, if you sell the artist then the art will sell itself!""

 4. Organise your Paperwork 
Both of these are important for the fair, make sure you're organised and have your paperwork in on time. Fair organisers can be unforgiving without the correct paperwork and in some cases you may not even be able to attend! Insurance, contractual agreements etc are essential for the fair organisers to make sure the event runs smoothly.

5. Printed Materials
If you are attending in the hopes of getting noticed then don’t forget to bring your flyers/leaflets/brochures/business cards. Allow potential contacts and buyers to take something with your details away from your booth, and don't forget to get theirs! Make sure to have any designs finished in advance to allow time for printing.

6. How are you going to pack your artwork?
Hopefully you'll do well and sell plenty of pieces. How are you going to get the artwork to the buyer? Are you going to employ a “take home today” ideology - if so, will you have art to replace the newly blank spot on the wall? Have you got enough bubble wrap and parcel tape?  Are packing services supplied by the fair?  If you’re planning on delivering the art to the buyer - are you going to add the cost of delivery to the price or have a separate pricing plan for delivery?

7. Accepting payment.
When someone buys your work, how will you take payment? Paypal, card terminals, cash only? Make sure to have a way to keep track of who purchases what and for how much, you can use this information after the fair for some direct marketing.

8. Promote yourself!
How will you let your following know you'll be at the fair? The art fair will most likely have a private view, so ask for invites - as many as you can get your hands on! Bring friends, family, friends of friends and so on. Use social media to let people know you'll be there and maybe even share some of the pieces you’ll be exhibiting. When you're at the fair, be engaging, be friendly and take an interest in your customers.

9. Debrief
Make a plan for the end before it's all over. Create a game plan be for keeping in touch with all of the new contacts you’ve made. These new contacts may be the most valuable part of attending the fair. Reconnect as soon as possible while their memories of you and your work are still fresh. Connect on social media and start a line of communication.

If it's your first fair, make sure to enjoy and learn from the experience above all else. If you're a seasoned professional it would be great to hear about your techniques for making fairs successful - thanks! 

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