Art Fair Insiders

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Lake Forest Art Fair--Great Art but spotty sales

LF is one of the wealthiest towns north of Chicago.
It is only a half hour drive away from Port Clinton Square which happened the week before.
It attracts top artists, many who will be going to Saint Louis next.
That said, it does not necessarily turn out to be a big selling show.
Here are a couple of reasons why.
The monied patrons have very conservative, traditional taste in their art.
This year there was a ton of talented painters there, and many were not happy.
We had unusually cool weather which would normally translate into big crowds. The opposite happened.
Last year we had steady crowds both days. This year you could throw three cinder blocks across the road and hit no one.
There were lots of well-heeled patrons walking with their expensive dogs with nothing in their hands but a leash.
This is a Sunday-Monday show with setup on the first day morning.
Seasoned exhibitors arrive early like five AM. It is a mellow setup nobody gets nasty, thank God.
Booths are along a Main Street, Western Avenue, and others are on perpendicular streets. Everybody has rear storage.
Basically, like too many shows, there are too many artists for too few buyers.
Last year, I did less than 1K on Sunday then had a killer Monday.
This year Sunday was the big day with Monday being a real yawner. I still did better than last year, so I cannot complain.
My neighbor, a talented painter, who does classic paintings like the old masters, nearly zeroed the show.
She felt that a lot of her patrons were not present because of the election upcoming, she is enroute to Saint Louis and she will kill there.
My wife was next to me had a meager show. She got a first prize ribbon but made only a few sales. It remains to be seen if she will return.
Every once and a while I would see a large framed piece go by. Usually it was a very traditional image.
I managed to piss off a number of elderly macho males who took great exception to my new hand colored photo of Caitlyn Jenner.
One guy huffed at me,"That image (Jenner) really distresses me. Why would anybody buy it?"
Oh, maybe because it is an out of the box piece of art.
At least I got a comment out of them. Art cannot always be about pretty things.
Overall, I was fortunate to sell to such a conservative audience.
This is the only show I do in the Chicago area. Chicago is not a great market for me.
So, as we have discussed many times, you gotta know your markets and their demographics. It is a rough art world out there and only the strong survive. I have been surviving for 42 years, been through four recessions and an endless number of election years.
I checked my numbers and for me, my sales have not plummeted during election years. But that is just me.
I hope this blog is helpful to you, especially newcomers. Then you can make a more intelligent decision about whether or not to do this show.
When I first began, I wish there had been a blogger out there like the present me. I had to make a lot of mistakes. You guys got it so much easier today.

Views: 606

Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on September 9, 2016 at 8:20am


As newcomers we do appreciate your blogs! The hardest part of this business for us is determining where to go to have the best chance of success. Thanks.

Comment by Elizabeth Kline on September 17, 2016 at 2:17pm

Nels - thanks so much for your reviews! They are so valuable and well written.

I was at this one as well - and I completely agree, great art and a bit slow. I basically matched sales from last year, when it was 95 degrees plus out - and more people came than this year, when the weather was perfect. Strange, but at least it wasn't a loss for me at all. Overall, I do really like this show - although I wished I had won an award - I did for my category last year, and it was a nice little check and boost. :)

Also, someone came into my booth with one of your prints featuring Prince - we were both admiring it!

Comment by Paul Flack on September 19, 2016 at 10:38am

"One guy huffed at me,"That image (Jenner) really distresses me. Why would anybody buy it?"
Oh, maybe because it is an out of the box piece of art."  Out of the box....Nels, your killing me...

Comment by Connie Mettler on September 19, 2016 at 10:54am

LOL. Thanks, for my laugh of the day, Paul.

Comment by Nels Johnson on September 19, 2016 at 5:47pm
Ok Paul, you have inspired me.
To the image I am adding a picture of Bruce Jenner on the box of Wheaties from the 70's--that will really piss off the old guys now.


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