Episode 254 – New Markets for Artists / Your Budget

Your Budget

The final and most important thing to consider is how much that space will cost. You don’t want to go over budget, so first decide how much you can spend on rent, paint, and other installation costs like electricity. Let’s say your budget is $1,200, and you cannot spend more than that. If that is your amount then the rent should be no more than about $800 for the three or four days of the fair, but remember that you will need to acquire the space sooner so you can clean it up if necessary, paint the walls, and hang your art. It’s important to have a rough budget already in mind when talking to the person who controls the space. Have you already figured out how much the paint and other installation materials will cost? It is OK if you don’t have the exact figures, but be approximate, and err on the side of over-budgeting. That way, when you talk to the person in charge of the space you will be organized and will know right away if you can afford the space or not. Keep in mind that as an artist, the person you are talking to knows that you are not rich, and that you are ambitiously fronting your own money to follow your passion. This may motivate the realtor to go easier on you during the price negotiation. It also means that if you are firm about the costs and your budget, the realtor will believe that they cannot demand any more money if they want your business. You may also offer a piece of your art to sweeten the deal. Most people like the idea of being a collector, especially if the art in question is associated with the major art fairs nearby. If renting a space nearby a major art fair is something you want to try, just begin to look for spaces and be prepared to negotiate.

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.

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Episode 253 – New Markets for Artists / Realtors, Owners, and Developers

Realtors, Owners, and Developers

There won’t always be a realtor, and in those cases you will have to negotiate a price with the land owner or developer.  If you are talking with an owner, the process will be similar to negotiating with a realtor. Tell them who you are and that you want to exhibit your art in their space and chances are they will be willing to work with you for two reasons. The first reason is that to hang art on the walls and leave the rest of the space untouched is not likely to cause any significant damage to the property—and you can sweeten your offer by agreeing to coat the walls in white paint. The second reason is that the people who will be coming to view your art will mostly be middle-class art lovers who are not likely to cause trouble and are also potential clients for the realtor. These will be your selling points for both private owners and the realtors. The upside for the realtor is that you are drawing attention to their space, cleaning it up, and increasing the likelihood of someone else being interested in renting it. There is nothing like an empty room with art on the walls to inspire others to think about what they could do with that space.

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.

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Episode 252 – New Markets for Artists / Do-It-Yourself Fair

Do-It-Yourself Fair

The DIY fair is another approach that can work out well. Essentially a DIY fair is when there is a big art fair near you like Basel Miami Beach, and you rent a space and host your own show. Graffiti artists, among others, have done this very successfully. If you do something interesting and promote your space well and have good art on display, you will be easily noticed, because you will be outside of the main fair area and will be viewed as an independent artist, and thus will be more likely to get better press and reviews.

How TMNK Did It

The artist TMNK makes his living selling his art on the streets of New York, and for a few years, he sold his art on eBay as well. He talks to students in high schools and likes to say, “I am nobody, and if I can do it, then anyone can.” What is different about him is his relentless pursuit, as he says, for what he wants. And one of the things he wanted was to go to Basel in Miami Beach and find a way to show his work. He told me he was thinking of renting a carwash for the day. As he calculated, a carwash couldn’t make more than $1,500 a day, and he was willing to pay that much so he could use the space to exhibit his work. But he never did that because, according to him, once he was in Miami he went around the city and found a better place.

Getting a Space

Eventually he met a developer who rented him a space in the heart of the fair district, right across from a permanent collection of a wealthy family that received an exceptionally high amount of traffic on its own. TMNK was not the first person to have success by renting a space around the fairgrounds, and in fact this method has since become more popular among artists and may be a viable option for you as well. Once you have your own space, you can host parties, openings, and band performances, and you will have a lot more room to experiment with new ideas. In the end, renting a space could (though not necessarily) be cheaper because you will be in control of all the decisions that must be made, but you must do what TMNK did before renting his space— go to the fairgrounds and start checking the neighborhoods for empty storefronts or warehouses. Who knows what you will find? Depending on your art, you may be able to use an outdoor location as well. After finding a suitable location, your next task is to find the realtor who is in control of it.

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.

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Episode 251 – New Markets for Artists / Promoting Your Booth

Promoting Your Booth

To promote your booth or room, you can employ traditional as well as nontraditional tactics. Traditional tactics mean advertising, which can range from using your Facebook page to tell friends, to local print and web advertising. If you don’t have a budget for promotion, you can think about performances or other guerilla tactics. If you are sharing the booth with a friend, one of you can go out and promote in person while the other remains inside. Handing out postcards is a good method, but make sure they have an eye-catching design or promotional hook. Have a picture on the front, and invite them to an after party on the back. People will be more likely to come if there is a social element to the event. Try to think of other gimmicks, such as free giveaways to the first 10 people who visit, or adding a performance by a band or well-known artist.

Do a Performance or Hire Someone

Another way to draw a crowd is to have a performer put on a demonstration outside your booth. You know how stores sometimes have people dressed up in silly costumes to draw attention? That can work for you too, but since you are an artist, the performance should be more interesting. Most art fairs have a good amount of traffic anyway, but this is not always the case. I have seen artists invest a lot of money into a booth only to find out that the organizers didn’t promote the fair enough, and by then it is too late. So if you are in a fair that is run by artists, it is wise to find past participants and ask them what they think about the fair in question.

Brand New Fairs

Some independent fairs are run better than others of the same size, and they change from year to year, so be sure to learn a little about their histories by searching on the web and finding people who have been associated with the fairs in the past but are no longer running them. Most fairs have lists of participating artists online, and you can easily write to the artists and ask what their experience at the fairs were. The easiest way to get their email addresses is to look up their art website or Facebook page. I have found that Facebook is the easiest way to contact people you do not know, because unlike regular email, their inboxes are not filled with junk or spam.

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.

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Episode 250 – New Markets for Artists / Parties are Good, in Moderation

Parties are Good, in Moderation

By all means, you should go to and enjoy the parties at these fairs, but be careful not to end up talking to people all the time. It is easy to just hang out with fellow artists and get their email addresses, but you also need to be trying to meet the collectors. Talking with collectors is hard for most artists. Probably you are not used to talking to collectors (or other very wealthy people, for that matter); and so you are leaving your comfort zone. Who wouldn’t naturally be reluctant to jump into this situation? But since you are at the fair to meet people who can help you, you have to help yourself by expanding your social circle.

Sales

Let’s assume you have decided to join one of the artist-run fairs to show your work in your own booth (or hotel room). To save on the cost, one option is to split the room with another artist, ideally one you would be comfortable sleeping with so you can share the bed too, but that is up to you. The gamble you take in investing in a booth or hotel room (especially for artists who do not have strong sales records) is that if you don’t make enough sales, you are losing money. Many artists who have booths never worry about sales and instead hang out in their rooms, serving wine or juice and hoping that their art on display will catch the eye of passing buyers.

Sometimes this works, and people do make sales, but this is the exception and not the rule. If you are running your own booth, be friendly when people come in and try to start conversations—you will be more likely to make sales this way. Also, if you have a friend who is an actor or a salesperson, you could ask them to help you in return for a commission on the art they sell or a flat rate that you agree upon in advance. The money you give that person will be well spent, because if they generate more sales than you are able to make on your own, you are in the black. Of course, it helps to have your booth be easily noticeable from the outside. The next step is to think about how you can promote your booth to increase foot traffic.

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.

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Episode 249 – New Markets for Artists / The Collector

The Collector

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.

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Episode 248 – New Markets for Artists / Minor but Important Fairs

Minor but Important Fairs

Many other art fairs are different, where people can be much more approachable and relaxed. When big fairs like Basel in Miami or the Armory in New York come to town, there are several small fairs that are usually nearby to take advantage of the huge art-loving crowds that gather. It began with a fair called Scope, originally organized by a director of a gallery, and then others began to pop up. Now there are also artist-run fairs like Pool, which take a funkier approach to fairs, nearby these big events and take place inside hotels. After paying a participation fee and the cost of a hotel room, each artist or gallery representative takes a normal hotel room, turns it into a gallery setting, and remains there to talk with other artists and prospective buyers. This arrangement works nicely, because the artists will also have a place to sleep that night.

Artist-Run Fairs

The artist-run fairs can be a lot of fun because there are other events taking place besides the activities inside and around each booth. There are usually performances and parties and an overall social-party atmosphere, because people are there especially to meet each other and make friends, and they are all artists. If you have been saying that you want more friends in the arts, then artist-run fairs are one place you can make them. The central purpose of these fairs is building relationships with new people rather than solely trying to make sales. The gallery representatives want to meet collectors, and collectors want to be introduced to new artists, and the artists want to find buyers who are as passionate about their work and artistic vision as they are.

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.

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Episode 247 – New Markets for Artists / Art Fairs: Small and Large

Chapter 7

Art Fairs: Small and Large

There are only two major art fairs, and they are The Armory Show and Basel. There are, however, small DIY (Do It Yourself, usually run by artists) or small commercial fairs that travel around neighborhoods where major art fairs occur. Art fairs are undergoing big changes. The two big fairs are extremely exclusive. Basel Art Fair, for example, only takes certain galleries in their fair and has VIP openings that cater to wealthy collectors. Generally, fairs like Basel are not a good place for moderately successful artists to promote their work. The reason is that the gallery directors at these fairs only want to talk to collectors and sell the art on display, and are not interested in meeting new artists. In fact, artists tend to get in the way of delicate new meetings between directors and their potential clients.

Meeting Gallerists at Art Fairs

Most gallery owners and directors are present at the fairs, but it is difficult for them to respond to your questions because collectors are hovering around their booths. However, you will have other opportunities. At the biggest fair, Art Basel, which now travels and has an event in Miami as well, you can certainly meet people. All around the fair are some of the wealthiest collectors in the world. The place to meet them is not near the booths themselves, where business takes place, but in the lounges and bars. If you are this adventurous, you will have to buy a pass to get into the fair, or know someone who has one. You will also have to be brave enough to not hesitate to ask someone wearing a power suit what their name is. If you do not have a pass to the fair, you may also be able to meet people in bars and hotels around the fairgrounds. These can be very high-powered encounters, but if you meet people and get their business cards, that in itself is a victory. Be forewarned that there will be a lot of schmoozing going on at these scenes, and if you are not up for that, I wouldn’t go, because that is how the game is played there.

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.

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