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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Or use the money for application fees to better shows you might not normally apply to.

Oklahoma City gets a 20% commission but stores normally mark up 100% so they're getting 50%. Kind of depends on who is doing all the work to sell the art.

Larry Berman

The negative of buying words from Google is that sales are not guaranteed. No sales will not equate to a refund from Google or any other form of advertising. Galleries and stores want their percentage...but if a piece does not sell you can obviously get your work back and try a different location os show.

Gallery percentages are high, and even though they provide an outlet I find it hard to have the price I sell for listed on my website and then have a higher price at a gallery.

We only do shows now, and even though we get 100% of the sales... the expenses related to doing the show add up. I really enjoy being in my shop working, however the shows are a welcome break and it gives my wife and I a chance to get out and have fun.

Greg I agree with keeping my prices the same across all selling venues, whether a fair, show, gallery or wherever a person may chose to sell. I don't want someone who purchased at a higher price see the same thing priced lower at another location or online.

So true...and there is always people at shows who get my card and go to my website to view my work with the ability to make a purchase. My prices include shipping. I think most of us always gravitate towards making purchases  from a website that has free shipping.

If I would put work in a gallery with my normal prices and then have to pay out 40% in commissions I would not make money. We all have fixed expenses when doing a show...but once those expenses are met 100% goes into my bank account. If the expenses are not met then they come out of my bank account...but that is a verey rare occasion.

Due to the weight of my most  popular sellers, travertine coasters, I cannot offer free shipping.  I do include tax in my prices.  Most of my sales are to out of state buyers so I end up with no tax liability for those purchases.

My price is near the top at retail already.  If I went up to cover shipping, I believe sales would never happen.  I sell a set of 4 for $28.  Shipping up to 4 coasters is about $8.00+/-.  That is through Priority Mail which includes $50 of insurance and tracking. 

Exactly, I agree with this 110%! 

That would be a mistake.  Prices need to be the same on your website and your gallery or you will soon find your gallery angry and kicking you out.

Definitely raise the price. I stopped doing these things. First you have to pay to apply, then you have to pay for shipping, and they don't usually sell anything anyway. The commissions are getting outrageous. Sometimes they want 50%. That means they're making more than the artist!

35-40% commission seems to be the standard in my area (Wisconsin) and I've seen as high as 50%.  I always raise my prices to offset the cost.  I put my pieces "on hold" on my website until it is sold or returned from the exhibit.

I dealt with a gallery that approached me (fine craft, leather). The lesson learned is your stuff won't sell unless the sales staff steers clients to your work and understands it. Sent some friends to gallery to observe and report back. Also, I added their % to my price as I am not willing to work for less. They were taking 50%. I had much better return by consigning utility leather goods to tack and saddlery stores. I set retail price and store got 20%. I also offered them wholesale at 33%. I still made money as they understood my work and the higher quality. I only have one consignment dealer nearby now as I am busy with other stuff. I had one store for about 5 years that did a booming business with sales of tack, saddles and referrals for custom chaps etc. We parted ways when she put in a factory line and they required an initial purchase of $10K of their saddles and tack. There wasn't much room for my stuff after that. They sold out a couple years later and by then I was into doing art shows. If there is a moral, business environments are always changing and you aphave to adapt.
Like Greg Little, the shows Jean and I do are in resort areas in Colorado and WY. They are mini vacations and get always for us that are 100% tax write offs. Plus they are profitable, if you keep up on my reviews during the summer.
I am a strong believer in keeping your price the same wherever you sell it. It is important to remember that even when you sell your own work you had expenses to sell it- booth fee, travel expenses etc. Sure it is hopefully not 50% but you also have a lot indirect expenses like your time to drive there and be at the show. Galleries have A LOT of expenses and personally I have never seen a gallery last more than a few years with commissions less than 40%. I do a lot of juried gallery shows on top of art fairs not for the sales but more for the exposure. I have had a lot of great things come out of these shows- teaching classes, solo shows and commissions. Ever once in awhile a piece sells or wins an award. To me it is worth it but if you aren't seeing the return it might not be for you.

The woman with the big western store was retailing my wholesale priced work at 100% mark up. I kept up with that as the market bore it, but for my returning studio clients, I just gave them a "discount" down to my normal price and "Dick was a great guy to do business with", and I didn't loose any money.


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