As an art foundry owner and industry insider I attend many art events every year. These shows span the spectrum from elite “invitation only” shows to street fairs. Admittedly I don’t find many fine art sculptors at the street fairs, but I do meet some. Because I am there on business, I attend these events with a strategy. For example if attending a large convention hall type of show, I first look at the map of the venue and choose a route. Then on my first pass I move quickly down the aisle, scanning as I pass. I am looking to be hit by an impression that captures my senses. I’m looking to get an impression of the artist’s work – a style, color palette, subject, etc. Going through these shows I feel bad as I surge past artists hoping to get my attention, but I also don’t want to waste their time when they could be engaging with an actual potential customer.
After my initial pass I take the time to more selectively go through the booths that caught my eye. I know that many artists are multidimensional in their artistic endeavors, but that is generally a difficult story to relate to collectors. Last week I attended a street fair and found a mix of arts and crafts. Of the several artists whom had works that could be classified as fine art, one of them caused me to write this blog. She had a large triple booth full of original paintings, which were so tightly hung on the walls that there was almost no wall visible. Her works were an assortment of landscapes, dogs, cats, giraffes, zebras, elk, children, flowers, and more. The style of each painting was unique and the framing for each was complimentary to the artwork. I felt really bad for her as person after person glanced at her booth and walked on by. She is obviously talented and can paint in a myriad of styles.
The problem was that the patrons weren’t able to quickly process her booth and make a judgment that they wanted to stop and look more closely. People walking down a path are like paddlers in a canoe on a river. They have a momentum as they flow down the stream of foot traffic and unless something causes them to pause, they just pass on by. I see this at almost every show and it is unfortunate because the artist just can’t decide which pieces to bring in the hopes that they show the one piece that will connect with that one buyer.
A successful strategy is to view your booth as a gallery and curate it with purpose. Create a theme you think the audience may respond to and build your presentation around it. Your theme can be style, subject matter, color, or anything really. Then ask yourself does each piece you have chosen to show actually meet the requirements of your theme. If it doesn’t, then edit it out and put it aside. When you are done take a few from the discard pile and bring them with you. Have them available out of sight so if you have a collector who is looking for something in particular you can pull it out from the back and hopefully close a sale. Keeping your collection tight and cohesive is a strategy that will lead you to higher sales.
If you are not getting the paddlers to stop by your booth, and need help to figure out why, give us a call.Brett Barney is CEO of American Fine Arts Foundry, Inc., an innovator for more than 40 years in patinas and finishes for fine art bronze and a Fine Art Appraiser