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I went to see the Tempe Festival of the Arts this weekend. I went on Saturday (2nd day) afternoon and went into a painters booth and she had several works on her walls with a large sign marked sold. Her paintings ranged from $3,000-$8,000. My wife didn't think she may have actually sold them but put a sign up to get people talking and yes I saw people wispering about the sold signs. Now I don't think any artist would mark a painting sold if it wasn't really sold but my wife thinks people may do that to make people think that their art is hot and selling well. Has anyone done this or know anyone that has done this? I'm not accusing anyone of doing this, I was just curious if this was a marketing strategy or not?

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Comment by Larry Berman on December 3, 2012 at 2:41pm
No different than leaving a space or two where something sold to make people think your work is popular.

Larry Berman
Comment by Hal Moran on December 3, 2012 at 3:32pm

I won't mark something "sold" if it wasn't - period.

Comment by Geoff Coe on December 3, 2012 at 3:34pm
Well, it's a LITTLE different. And not in a good way. Why on earth would you mark paintings sold if they were not? That would perhaps increase the perception that your work IN GENERAL was "hot", but it would completely eliminate the possibility of selling the ones marked "sold".

Much better strategy to leave an empty space or two when something actually sells. .
Comment by Donna Marie Thome on December 3, 2012 at 3:40pm

basically, it's just lying...

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on December 3, 2012 at 3:47pm
Intake the empty hooks down and fill in the vacant spaces. I want people to feel they have a full selection, not "what's left".
Comment by Katherine Graham Sarlson on December 3, 2012 at 4:23pm

I agree with Geoff that it sometimes makes sense to leave a prominent hole or two.

Comment by Sam Hufman on December 3, 2012 at 6:07pm

I have put "Sold" signs on a few pieces that were not for sale that I had brought to fill out a display or to have representation of various styles of work. I have found it is better to put "Sold" than "NFS." People just HAVE to ask WHY something is "not for sale."

Comment by Geoff Coe on December 3, 2012 at 6:30pm
Some really good points being raised here, this is interesting!
* Some shows prohibit displaying works that are not for sale.
* I will normally fill empty spaces within a reasonable time after I sell a piece off the wall. I won't hang a piece just to fill a space. I want to move things around and fill the gap in a way that preserves the "composition" of the booth as I intended when I first set it up. The customer who visits my booth for the first time on Sunday afternoon deserves to see a booth that looks as good as it did on Saturday at 10 AM.

That said, if I have a gangbusters show and begin running out of inventory on Sunday afternoon, I don't have a problem leaving the walls bare to let folks know the work is in demand. But I wouldn't stash work behind the tent to convey that false impression.
Comment by Elle Heiligenstein on December 3, 2012 at 7:33pm

I have heard of people doing this as a marketing scheme.  It's kind of like when a client calls a hair salon for an appointment as is told, "We only have one time slot left for the week/day etc."  It makes the client think they are sooo busy and they were lucky to get in.  It's not my style though, I prefer to keep it honest and up front.   

Comment by Robert Wallis on December 4, 2012 at 12:18am

I saw an artist across from me several years ago have a continuous stream odf sales, or at least it looked like it. I started watching and finally figured out that their teenage children would come into the booth and they would run a knucklebuster card swipe to fake out a sale. Of course whenever someone buys something, it always piques the interest of other patrons and they start coming in and frequently buy something. After a little while the teenagers would make their way to the back of the booth, ditch the "purchases", wander back out and in a little bit the entire cycle would start again. I watched this multiple times that weekend, and the "transactions" would always get a crowd started in the booth again. Cheating? Shills? All I know from watching is that it worked for them. I could have used some kids like that this summer ;-) Oh, geez, the mind just boggled at a new art fair service - Rent-A-Shill; Bringing Customers Into Your Booth!

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