Art Fair Survival Guide

…& why we need to keep the art fairs alive!

We’ve come out the other side of a lockdown and it’s time to revisit our social calendars and book in some culture! There’s one thing our diaries have missed throughout lockdown and that’s all of the art fairs – the ultimate perk of working in the arts industry is that we get to frequent the many amazing UK art fairs and chat with all the galleries and artists attending. As well as being an alternative and fun day out, there are many reasons why art fairs are important and you should visit them – as an artist, gallery or just general socialite and art enthusiast…

  • Brand Awareness & Exposure 

We all hate that word, ex-po-sure, but it does work if you make it work! You can get your name out there and build your network or brand, whether you’re an artist, gallery, blogger or fan, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the right crowd and getting your work seen by collectors, local gallery owners and curators. This can be huge for your career (or for your Instagram)! Visitors, you can introduce yourselves to new artworks and artists, chat to the galleries and maybe get inspired to start your own art collection. Why not?! You’re in the right place for it!

  • Experience

Art fairs can cost a lot of money if you’re travelling and, depending on the fair, the ticket alone can be a bit of a treat. If you’re exhibiting, you’ll be looking at marketing, staff and logistics costs on top of the fee itself. Although pricey, if you want the sales they can definitely be worth it if you make the effort and learn from the experience: choose fairs that match your key demographics or with a higher footfall to secure yourself those long-term customers, research before you go to see if there’s anyone there you would like to proactively approach for collaborations, and plan early so you can manage your time and resources and enjoy the fair a lot more! Selling your work and brand can be difficult and art fairs are the perfect platform to test your marketing skills, work on networking, choosing the right fairs, and cutting costs. You’ll get financial and marketing experience under your belt and can learn from fellow exhibitioners to see what works and what doesn’t. Trial and error baby! If you sell then what the hell!

  • Advice

Looking to redecorate your office? Perhaps you’ve got a wedding coming up (finally). The art fairs are the perfect place to pick the brains of fellow creatives. Don’t be scared about asking for framing advice or which piece would suit which event. The artists and galleries are there to help and advise so you leave with a piece of art you love. And if you’re a creative, what a better place to visit for technique, material, and career advice. Grab those business and postcards and strike up a conversation!

Strategically, attending art fairs as an exhibitor can escalate your art career. It can be pricey, but it is the ultimate platform to get that exposure you need to make those sales! So crunch those numbers and make it worth your while. For visitors, it’s a brilliant way to show your support for your local galleries or favourite artists. It’s the perfect place for inspiration and even just for a treat (they sell fizz at a lot of these fairs you know).

Tips for exhibitors:

  • Network, network, network! 
  • Plan early. You want to get all your artworks, labels and marketing assets ready in advance so you haven’t missed a spot in the busy run-up
  • Choose local and low-cost fairs if you’re starting out just to get a vibe of the art fair life
  • Research! Select fairs based on demographic and footfall to get the best outcome for your time
  • Price up your work confidently and number crunch: how many pieces will you need to sell to break even?
  • Use Own Art to your advantage!

Ask if the art fair is a member of the Own Art scheme. There are already a number of art fairs that offer alternative ways of purchasing art and craft so check beforehand if they offer Own Art so you can prepare your Own Art sales pitch! This is an advantage for galleries and artists as it offers an easier payment option and can be used to upsell smaller works (pop another piece in your basket to reach the £100 price point and you can split the cost interest-free).

If your gallery is an Own Art member, login to your membership dashboard to browse your membership benefits for exclusive discounts which may support your visit; order Own Art point of sale in advance and make sure your artwork labels and assets feature the Own Art logo (which you can download here); Offer the Own Art scheme to your customers as an easy, alternative payment option.

Tips for visitors:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to whoever is exhibiting. If you’re interested in a piece or just want to ask what it’s made out of, it’s always great to learn something new
  • Do your research beforehand. Art fairs are busy places and there is a lot to see and take in. Map out who you’d like to see or speak to so you can ensure you plan a successful day out
  • Attend local and support your local artists!
  • Collect those cards. If you’re visiting for inspiration, collect business cards to remind you of your favourites
  • Ask if the art fair or a specific gallery offers the Own Art scheme!  

Splitting the cost in interest-free monthly instalments is easier on the wallet and means that you can affordably take home the art or craft that you fall in love with. It’s easy to apply and you can take home the artwork straight away!

Art Fairs on the Own Art scheme include The Affordable Art Fair, The Other Art Fair, Fresh: Art Fair, Roy’s Art Fair & Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair