One of the most exciting things I do every year is to attend art trade shows. While there, I get to meet with artists, fellow gallery owners and art consultants, as well as buyers. Besides getting to speak directly with fellow art lovers, my favorite thing to do there is sell art! If you’re one of the artists heading to New York, Miami, or Las Vegas in the coming months, you will want to make a great impression, make the best use of your time, and sell as much work as possible. Here are my top five tips to dazzle your visitors at your next art show.
1. Create a Signature Style
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, what makes an artist stand out at exhibition—anywhere really—comes down to one thing: You need a signature style. Every great artist you know about has a recognizable style, technique, color palette, or subject matter. You can look at the work and know immediately who did it. Make sure the work you select reflects a streamlined style.
2. Select Only Your Best Work
Although there may be a desire to show off your entire range of abilities and interests—don’t. At least not at a show. Unless you’re a gallery owner representing many artists at once, don’t fill up the booth with a variety of work and styles. Buyers and collectors are informed. They don’t want a one-and-done painting. They’re looking to see if an artist has staying power and a signature. If you are working with a gallery, make sure you send them your best and most current work.
3. Presentation Is Everything
Art shows are a great opportunity to expose your artwork to masses of potential new clients and trade buyers, but there is always A LOT going on. Maximize your booth. Create beautiful wall layouts that don’t overwhelm the visitors. Letting a few pieces shine makes an impactful statement to the buyer.
Preparation is key. Come ready with handouts that have a description of your work, an artist statement, and your contact details. Make sure you spend some money on quality framing and hang your work properly. Presentation is everything. You need to give your art—and buyers—room to breathe.
4. Build Relationships with Clients
Becoming a successful, well-known artist is not something that happens overnight—for anyone. You need to build relationships with your buyers. Take time with your visitors. Get to know them and what they’re interested in. Exchange cards. Encourage visitors to follow you on social media or sign up for your newsletter. Don’t sit down in your booth. Don’t eat in your booth. Don’t look at your phone. Give visitors your full attention. They may not buy this time, but if they come back, they will be more likely to come to your booth again because they have built a rapport with you. Your buyers want to know you as an artist with staying power. They are investing in you and your work. Give them a good reason to.
5. The Price Has to Be Right
Another key aspect of success is pricing the work. Every piece of work should have a title, artist, size, and price information clearly labeled. Don’t go to a show not knowing how much your work (and time) is worth. This is always a starting point and encourages the consumer to ask questions such as: Where did the title of this piece come from? Who is this artist? Where are you from? Questions such as these open the piece for discussion and allow you or your dealer to engage the consumer, encourage sales, and get a feel for the type of pricing the market will support. A piece that you feel was priced on the higher end might be a no-brainer for an interested and seasoned collector. Or, perhaps you’ve out-priced yourself, given the reaction of passersby. Either way, you’ll know for next time what works best.
If you’re thinking about attending a trade show but the logistics (setting up and selling the work), not to mention the cost of attending as a solo artist, intimidates you, consider partnering with a gallery to show your work. My team at ADC and I have been doing it successfully for years. We work hard to prepare the booth, ship and install the art, and spend every minute of our day during the trade show making your work stand out to buyers. We can focus on selling your work so you can focus on creating more of it.