Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Browse bins have not had much love recently.
They were a central and controversial topic in that recent spirited discussion about booth jury slides and the art show police.
Here's the thing about browse bins: If your art business depends on them, you defend them along with your mother and the flag. If you do not need them in your art business, you either don't care or you poo-poo them as a blight on art shows.
Browse bins are more important to photographers like me than to anybody else. Photographs do not have the perceived value of paintings or glass or sculpture. Therefore, to make money, we photographers have to sell in much greater volume and at lower unit prices. I cannot sell a photograph for $3,000. A lot of painter friends can.
That's what outdoor are shows are about, right? Making money? Just wanted to make sure we're all on the same page.
Some people think of us photographers as the bottom-feeders of the business, thank-you very much. Now, thanks to technology, we are multiplying like paramecium in a petri dish. All you have to do is press the shutter button halfway down, wait for the little green square to appear, and boom, you are a photographer! Sign up for Cherry Creek today!
But without out beloved bins, many of us would be doomed to lives of mindless actual real jobs, attempting to work for The Man but probably getting fired because we cannot tolerate authority figures.
Unfortunately our wondrous bins, lifelines to survival in this economy, seem to create a negative reaction among show jurors. Financial lives may hang in a balance based on what these people decide from five seconds of images on a screen. To jurors, often tormented art academics anyway, too much tawdry bin in a booth slide suggests, dare we say the words.....sales.....commerce...Money with a capital M! Nasty ugly stuff.
Thi is because jurors tend to have regular jobs and regular paychecks and therefore little respect or understanding of the need for browse bins. And so, as a strategy to get juried in, we do our best to hid our bins from them. But remember, outdoor art today has become more about making a living than for showing off our exquisite creations and pleasing our mothers, yes? With me on this? So you do what you gotta do.
As a result of some bizarre and unlikely confluence of cosmic conditions I once got juried into one of those Top Ten shows. They're called Top Ten because anybody who gets in usually can go there and sell a ton. And art shows are all about the money, right? Yes? Just checking.
So anyway, this show had a rule that you could have only two browse bins. It neglected to indicate how large those bins could be. Ten feet wide? Two feet wide? Big difference.
I go with two bins, reasonably sized, each with a divider. An obviously irritated art show lady soon appears in front of my tent, eyes reduced to narrow slits, demanding that one of the bins be removed. She concluded that I had four bins, instead of two, because of the dividers.
She stood there, arms folded and tapping her toe, until I removed one of the bins, surely saving this show from imminent ruin.
Oh the contrast between she and me: She, perhaps the wife of a millionaire car dealer in town, someone who probably never in her privileged life had to worry about a health insurance payment, standing there like an SS storm trooper, barking demands. Me, some poor schlub scratching around out on the street in a tent out trying to make a living at art shows. And never mind that this show was making a ton of jack selling posters and t-shirts.
It was a bad day for browse bins. I wasn't the only one. But this incident leads to a genius solution:
Yes, we attend these shows for the money, but most of the conflict in today's outdoor art experience is the result of money. We have been poisoned by the money! So listen: We must get past this irritation and back to our roots: Art for the sake of the art with no commercial considerations.
I therefore have been authorized to issue Executive Proclamation #123A-867, as follows: Henceforth, any outdoor art show with Top Ten status shall exist strictly for the exhibition of art, no sales allowed.
Belleville: As a result of no selling, the need for ugly browse bins is eliminated. All exhale.
Cherry Creek: Exhibition only. Bins a thing of the past. Relax in the mountain air. Discuss Proust with your neighbor.
LaQuinta: Pure art, no commerce. Bins to the dumpster. Roll a fat boy if you wish; after all, this is California.
Virginia Beach: You won't even have to number anything anymore! The dreaded Boardwalk art police will wiggle their toes in the sand with you.
Surely this initiative will achieve a more perfect art world in which outdoor artists live in harmony and peace and love, no longer plagued by business rivalries and personal conflict.
Browse bin angst will be a thing of the past. Nels will buy tequila for the house.
Don't let this happen to you. To make sure it does not,
Congratulations. You have managed to be both sexist and offensive.
I am not your honey.
Oh cheez louise, Steve, why must you always post reasonable questions about what affects our livelihood in this biz. I am all for smoking fat hooters--but with prints bins. I think I should be allowed to put a foam-core banded perimeter around a 8x10-foot table and call it a browse bin--take that Vero Beach! I think painters should be able to do it too, I hope they can make their repros look somewhat like their originals.
Bins, sins, who wins? we are obviously only in this biz to support struggling art shows with $500 booth fees for two days--"We don't need no stinking bins."
You need to spend more time on the golf course working on your short game, these provacative questions you keep asking get too close to the heart of why we do this biz. Really, go have a good shot of Patron and work on your fade. As always, your true confidante, Nels.
Steve, in your own wry way (not rye, that's for drinking), you've made an excellent point. Photographers need bins. I think painters should have them, too, but the art show gods have deemed bins in painters' booths as not professional or trashy or cluttered. But, since we photographers are already non-professional, trashy and cluttered, we po-boys and po-girls can have bins.
Now, on the serious question: how many bins should we be allowed? Back in the day, this rule was stretched to the max, with some photogs having 10-15 bins (but OK, if you had Amish stuff in them). Then rules started coming out (yeah, I know the show you're talking about - I got shot down because I had one too many bins, too, but there were two squinchy eyed mavens - I guess I looked more threatening than you did!). One bin, maybe two. Each show started micromanaging the number. One photographer jumped me at a show, claiming that I had five bins. I went to her booth - she had six! But from the front of the booth, it looked like one; the others were "hidden" behind the biggie out front. She claimed that thus, she only had one - because that was all that could be seen from the street. Yeesh!
There is another photographer who always seems to get a triple booth at just about any show, even those shows that allow no more than a single 10x10 or 10x12. One time I saw him at a show with just a single booth (bless that show!). There were so many bins, you had to practically crawl over them to get to the inside of the booth.
Well, I don't really have an answer. I think each artist should determine what they need and the show shouldn't try and restrain our sales. Or pretty soon, the shows will start realizing that the application rate is falling way down and that only local newbies with six or 10 photos thumbtacked to the wall will be the new look.
I think the whole issue should be based on the quality and presentation of the art; in 2D, it should be whatever is on the walls, bin quantity not important.
BTW. I'm always amazed at how many waitresses call me "Honey." And it is just about anywhere I go in this great country. Some of them even put a hand on my arm or shoulder. I guess I'm not so scary after all. And I never, never take offense at that nickname!
Very, very good idea. Sounds like back in 78 when our hearts were pure and we all had jobs on the side.
The problem is that no matter what the ladies do to purify the shows, add rules that raise the level of the art being shown and to assure the viewers that they have screened out the riffraff..
We're still sitting there in TENTS. Now that's tacky. The organizers need to construct miniature 10 x 10 marble temples for the weekend so as not to give the impression that we're some kind of roving gypsy band. Even though we dress like it.
Back in '78, I didn't have a pure heart (boring!), and I had just quit from a good job - I had decided to throw myself off from the top of the Temple of fully-paid, retirement-gifted, inside-warmish-and-dry, decent-food-provided, weather-controlled real job down, down, down, into the gooey, rejection-infested, maven-controlled swamp of art shows. And I still love mucking about in that swamp!
But I draw the line at wearing a gypsy dress!