Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I only attend about 4 local art fairs per year, but I send artwork (usually 3-6 pieces) to various group or solo exhibits about 8-12 times per year.

This past weekend I delivered a piece of artwork for a local exhibit. In looking at the "fine" print I saw that the art center gets 40% of any sales. ( may have seen it in the CFA, but probably forgot) My usual price for the artwork I took is $200 - and seem to sell well at art fairs. Because of the 40% commission I raised the price to $275. That's $110 to the art center. I'm used to seeing 20%-35% commissions - which I'm okay with. But to me, 40% just seems over the top.

I'm starting to think for that kind of commission I may be better off putting money into some sort of direct marketing or other digital media. Just as an example, I could buy a whole lot of Google ad words for less money, or some other method.

Appreciate your thoughts.


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I agree with you that 40% is too high. I wonder sometimes if "operating expenses" is not just another term for greed. My work typically sells for similar prices as yours so any upfront fees for showing and displaying the artwork eats up so much that I rarely profit at all!

I went down to only two shows this past summer and barely covered expenses. I've been told that I'm wasting money on rental transportation to shows but owning any vehicle for transport is also expensive in terms of maintenance and insurance.

I started to sign up at art sale sites but the thumbnail upload requirements are different in every site and it was just too much effort to try and keep track of each site's requirements and procedures.

40%, what about 50%?  That means that they're making more money for it than the artist is.  We're the ones investing in materials, matting, framing, not to mention time and imagination.  The gallery's investment is the same whether you're in there or not.  If they can't stay in business taking 30% from every artist they represent (which used to be the normal take) then maybe they shouldn't be in business.

I am a veteran (35+ years) of large sales in other industries to a worldwide audience. Some of the business practices do not translate to well to the art consumer purchase, some do. I am only in my 2nd year of art shows, I have done perhaps a dozen or so, so I am still a newbee at this, but here goes

One of the best suggestions comes from Cliff at the Park City show, a master wood turner who often sells out everything he brings. If he is going to take on a gallery, then he makes them buy a few pieces outright, up front, at a 40% discount, then will consign enough pieces to them so that they can have a full display. and those go at 20%-25% commission,

Myself, I am selling at low prices considering how much time each of pieces takes (50-90 hours). What form of sale do I want ? What do I want out of it, artistic exposure, artistic feedback, interesting conversations, money, what do I want? Other things being equal, usually the money is the last on that list. So, since I am not interested in a pure monetary sale, then an on-line sale, and a gallery sale, are lowest on the list. compared to doing an art show. 

My next show is a museum show, i.e.e, no selling. It runs for two months; I am only going to get minimal conversations there, as I am only going to hang the pieces, then take them down later. I would not do this during the summer, need all of my pieces for shows, but since they would just be sitting in a box in my studio, might as well have people looking at them. That and the show is local (45 minutes away).

So I guess it depends on what you want out of it. Just money, you can cover much more ground on-line and by having your work in multiple places. Interaction with people? that is more one on one

This is pretty much what I agree with. I have also placed pieces with museums for short and long term exposure. Museum story: I built a fancy silver mounted saddle for myself ($9,800) in 1996. By the time they returned it to me in 2016, my horse had to be put down and I decided I was too old for hip or shoulder injuries/replacements. So now I am the saddle maker with a saddle and no horse to put it on. The museum exposure did generate business for me.


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