Everyone wants something from the other art fair participants, but the collector has a rather unique position that the dealers and artists do not. While dealers and artists worry about selling as many pieces as possible, collectors can focus on having a good time and seeing what is new and exciting in the art world. If you are a top-level dealer at Basel, you have less pressure in some ways, but more in others. You may not have to prove yourself as much, but you have to be efficient with your time and meet new collectors as well as museum directors and critics who can significantly influence the value of art. As an artist with a booth or a room, you feel you must at least make enough sales to cover the cost of the space you have rented to show your work, so there is some pressure. But collectors, as I said, feel less pressure, though at the highest levels, they are competitive with each other and want to own the trendiest and hottest works of art.
Relationships at Fairs
When making relationships and friendships at these fairs, keep a few things in mind. Collectors will generally be the easiest to talk to because they want to know and understand more about art and artists. The other thing to remember is that you are there to meet people and exchange contact information with them. If you have a room at a fair, be sure to have a guestbook where visitors can leave their emails. If you are just walking around the fair looking to meet people, always ask for a card. If they do not have a card, ask them if they would like to keep in touch, and take down their email however you can. I think the easiest way is to send a text message to yourself, that’s what I do.
Keeping Track of New Relationships
If I am talking to someone who is interesting or well connected, I tell them I would like to keep in touch and ask for their email, which I then text to myself. You could write the email on paper, of course, but by using your phone the information is archived and you’re less likely to lose your phone than a business card or scrap of paper. I have collected business cards over the years, but unless I enter them into a digital database like an email address book or an email-marketing program, the information gets lost or becomes impossible to read. The reason preserving email addresses is so important is because you want to develop your new relationships so that in the future they might bear the fruit of art sales and new exhibition opportunities. Everyone you meet at these fairs can be helpful to you in the future, so this is a chance to promote yourself and advance your career in a big way, just by making new friends.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.