Art fairs here depress me

April 27, 2008

I have been trying to pinpoint why art fairs here in northern Holland generally depress me.  I went to see some artists friends exhibiting at one yesterday.

In the states I remember the fairs I did mostly as prestigious, juried events. That meant that you were exhibiting in good company and generally your audience came with a clear goal to buy or at least contact quality artists.  

The fancy-fair atmosphere of most of these events I’ve seen here precludes not only attracting people who value art and are willing to pay for it, but also the time and peace for in-depth discussions with serious prospective buyers. 

I guess selling work at art fairs is at the extreme end of commercializing your work. You need to package, price and display it and often must compete with a score of other wares being sold.

But if you must do all these things, then at least you should be rewarded by showing in a venue that respects art and artists and creates the best possible conditions in which to sell it. 

I also dislike the imbalance, and passivity of the whole strange set-up. Art is often added to an event as an embellishment to attract more people. I find it denigrating to see artists sitting behind a display of their work while people walk by eating, ignoring the work, photographing it, or ask about working methods so they can try it at home cheaper. 

I know how much love and energy time and money goes into preparing a public display of your work. I also know how it feels to pack up everything again at the end of the day with nothing more than a couple of potential contacts in your pocket.

There has to be a better way.


3 Responses to “Art fairs here depress me”

  1. MadSilence Says:

    Sarah, interesting insights into art fairs. I’ve become a strong advocate of local art & craft fairs, finding them more enjoyable than auction and gallery sales. I get to meet talented amateurs as well as experienced artists in a relaxed atmosphere. I’ve had many conversations on the art market & art education. Visiting the art fairs illustrates the nature of the market: landscape & still life paintings predominate, since that is what middle-class bourgeois buyers (that’s me!) seem to want. Granted I admire a well-crafted still life, but I enjoy more the thrill of the hunt, searching for new artistic expression. It’s fun! Of course the economic element predominates. If an artist wants to sell art, he or she must create for the market. And didn’t the modern art fair find its genesis in northern Europe (Antwerp) in the 15th century?
    See: http://madsilence.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/robot-poop-flowers-and-painted-china/

  2. szoutewelle Says:

    Thanks for this positive take on art markets,madsilence. It balances my curmudgeonly vent in this posting.
    I used to do artfairs in Pittsburgh when I lived in the states, and loved the atmosphere, quality, and seeing all my returning artist friends. I also sold well and they were worth the effort.

  3. Violet Rae Says:

    Here is a possibility for changing the intersection of “marketing” art and self: http://www.artwalkeasthampton.org/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/archive/artnews/20071016101125/

    Musicians have forever had to squeeze into the tight space between alcohol and audience. In America celebrities exist on the big screen while audiences gorge themselves on oversized beverages and mock-buttered greasy containers which are almost always strewn on the movie theater floors.

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