Art Fair Insiders

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,

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Replies to This Discussion

Nels - I can paint - I can't spell!
I hear they charge extra for the "l", but after the 3rd drink who can spell it anyway?
Great post, Steve.  I totally agree that browse bins are a necessity if you want to eat (or drink- if that is the case).  As a jewelry artist, I keep a basket of inexpensive bracelets for the public to browse through.  Are they art? no Do they help pay the bills? yes
I wonder if (and this may be stretching it a bit) if it could be a backdoor way to cut down the number of photographers in a artshow. By restricting the number of bins, you effectively restrict the amount of photos/product etc that can be seen (without looking cluttered) and thus reduce the earning potential...reducing the desire to to the show.....etc etc etc...
You're very, very funny! You're also a very good writer. I'll bet your photography is great, too.
Hey Barbara: I knew there was something I liked about people with hypenated names!...........Steve

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