Art Fair Insiders

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

Am preparing to go to my first show in a couple of weeks.  Got the tent, display, etc. pretty much under control.  All the great conversations here have been a tremendous help.  Have one question I could use some help on.

I'm an abstract painter.  I've never sold anything.  So, I'm thinking I'll set my prices pretty low.  If I sell out (one can dream), I can always raise prices next time.  My question:  If I set my prices low (that is compared to the more experienced artists in the show), will that be considered bad form or unfair competition or just somehow not kosher?  If someone is selling their large (4x4) abstracts for $6k, is it bad form for me to sell mine for under $1k?

I've paintings between 16x20 inches and 4x4 feet in the show, ranging in price from $150 (framed) to $900 (gallery wrapped).  I wouldn't think better known artist's would mind, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is some sort of unwritten rule about this sort of thing.

Am I over thinking this?  Any insight would be appreciated.

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Thank you, Mr. Wallace.   Your "flip" side is very helpful to someone like myself who is  not trying to "make money", but make expenses.  I enjoy making my art, and I'd like others who like it to have the opportunity to have it.  This, I'm sure, is a far different business from those attempting to make a living from the show circuit.

In any event, I appreciate your perspective.  Thanks.

Some might see this in a different vein.

At times companies will come into a market. They will undercut all the competitions prices, thus driving the competition out. Once the competition is gone they can raise prices as they now control the market.

They can afford to use this technique as they have great financial resources behind them. Therefore, for these price cutters,  the temporary loss of profit is not too much of a burden to bare. 

Might some perceive the ones who do not make their living by and depend on the income from the Art Shows, as being of this sort?

Yes, indeed, I see your point.  But it misses a larger point, I think.  Not all worthy of the name artist are attempting to make a living from their art.  Having spent my life in the arts ( music ) I can tell you that the surest way to kill a love for their art in many people (not all, of course) is to force them to make a living at it, adjusting to "market forces" and the "competition" of other artists.  I see nothing wrong in looking at artwork as a business, but I think it is only one of the ways to looks at it and -- in my experience -- not the most productive.  But that's my view on the matter.

I wanted to do some artfairs because I like what I do with paint and I want to share it with others.  Making money (other than expenses) is not an issue I'm concerned about.

Maybe I've made a mistake in this.  Perhaps the question I should be asking is NOT about prices, but about whether or not someone who isn't doing this for the livelihood has a right to be messing up the market-system of those who are.

In one respect, Larry Sohn's attitude is refreshing.  I agree with his analysis -- but only if you look at the art fair as a small business battle-ground, as a "market" in the MBA since.  Perhaps it is.  If so, I don't want to disrupt other people's livlihood.  In that case, I probably "should" put my prices high and, if I don't sell, get out of the market and let the pros compete.  Perhaps an amateur like myself should simply stay out of the circuit.

I can just set up a booth in my home town farmers' market give my paintings away. I'm only being partially facetious.  In any case, I've really enjoyed this discussion.  It's made rethink whether it is even ethical to come into an art fair without viewing it an economic sense.  I've no desire to drive others from the market nor any desire to lose money.

But then should those artist who do not need or want to make a profit from their art, refrain from entering this market place?  That doesn't seem right either.  If what we are doing is selling copies, reproductions, etc., perhaps.  But when we are selling one-of-a-kind objects, are we really in competition with each other?  Someone gonna buy my painting because it's cheap and not buy yours because it costs more?  That's not right, is it?  I mean, people will buy things they like if they can afford it.  If that can't afford to buy what they like, will they buy something they like a little less because it's cheaper?

I'm not sure this small-business battle-ground is the right model for the art fail.  But then I'm new to the whole thing.

Everyone has posted some very good points, and I respectfully agree with all of them.

Edgar, you would be completely right to price your work however you wish. We are in a free enterprise system, and pricing is all over the place out there. Usually going by price is a way for customers purchasing anything to be able to tell what they are getting -you get what you pay.   

You don't have buy/sell, which is against the rules and can really get your honest neighbors in an uproar!

People will not buy your work solely on the price. They have to like it and want it. 

I suggest doing what others have said about how to eventually get your work at the right price to be competitive and make some money.

Good luck with your show.

Edgar, Very nicely expressed. Not all fit within the definitions expressed. I, for one, do my art for the love of it. I have a passion for what I do. That is why I do it. However, it is also my living. therefore, although the passion, ethics, beliefs etc, come first, the practicality and needs of a business and all that go into that are also factored in.

Hence the result of creating and displaying purely what I desire while being able to run an ethical business model.

It is good when the art community and all within, police themselves. By speaking to each other and listening, we can make informed decisions that are for the best.

There are times I may have considered doing something a certain way, then after research, decided it was not in the best interests of the whole.

best decisions do not just help our self. They help the entire field, which will in turn help ourselves.

This is the beauty of a free market economy - set your prices as YOU see fit. The marketplace will decide whether or not to buy your artwork based on your price, quality, style, genre, etc. Then it's up to you to respond based on their feedback. That is if you want to sell your work.

Edgar, Either way I give you a lot of credit.

You have shown a sincere interest in respecting the other artists and integrity of our craft.

By bringing forth and discussing these issues shows good character.

I replied to this thread a while back, and I'm sure I was probably categorized as a bad example because of my low pricing. In my defense the pieces I was doing then (only been painting for 15 months) was all on on paper, matted and bagged, nothing on canvas, so low cost per piece. Since then I was the recipient of an anonymous donation of 55 canvases, ranging from 2'x3' to 6'x5' and my perspective has taken a hit. It's currently 6.06am and in 3 hours I'll be showing, for the first time, my work on some of these monster canvases. I have no idea what I will charge for a 3'x4' oil painting or a 5'x5' watercolour - guess it will be a trial by fire. So don't be like me... be prepared. )

I have managed to sell right at 100 pieces in 4 events, only one of which was an actual art festival, so I'm moving some pieces. Have to say, albeit late, Edgar - thats a great feeling to see people being so thrilled to but an original for what others are charging or a photocopy. Call it external validation, call it an ego-boost, it's still a good feeling. 

Thank you so much for your reply.  I share your perspective on prices, though I'm not sure even low prices would help my sales.  Please keep me up-dated on how the large works do and at what price.

Any chance we could see some of your work?  Best of luck on the show

very small show, 2 blocks of vendors, I think there was 52 total tents, and we sold 20 to 25 or pieces. The big canvases went over huge, we even sold one 4'x4' for $250 (the highest priced item I had). I don't even have photos of two or three pieces I did in the last week that I thought wouldn't sell. 

Here is some terrible photos of pieces that I know sold. The upper right one was a huge draw, even though my son said "it's too busy and no one will buy that". What I learned yesterday: go big, go bright, and wear sunscreen (I didn't, one half of my face is bright red). Next show I'll take more 3'x3'+ pieces, maybe even a few 6'x5' if I can figure out to transport them. 

Now its your turn Edgar, post a few pics. 

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