Sunday, March 20, 2011

The cost of art fairs

I was just talking on the phone to gallerist friend who's been doing the Scope Art Fair for the last few years, and as a result of sales at the art fairs, barely being able to keep her gallery open, as sales in her hometown are all but non-existent.

Last December she had a small booth in Miami. This basic booth (200 Sq. ft.) has a basic cost of $10, 600. That's the start.

In her case she didn't add any extra walls (additional cost), but just added some extra lights (additional cost). By the time she finished paying the additional mandatory advertising fee ($1,000 for a small booth - it grows proportionally as the booth gets larger), and the mandatory insurance, she was looking at $12,000 for a basic small booth.

Now add airfare for her and an assistant (it is physically nearly impossible to do an art fair with just one person manning the booth - believe me... I've done once and know the impossibility of this task). Then add hotels (share the room) and transportation (share the rental car) and food for her and her assistant. Now tack on the shipping price for the artwork from the Mid Atlantic to Miami, Florida (and back for unsold work). The cost is now around $15,000 for this basic booth, plus the assistant's salary (undisclosed).

She had decided to take just one artist to Scope (the fair has a pretty tough minimalist hanging policy), and had applied with just the one name. She was glad that Scope accepted this "new" artist, because this was an artist with strong representational imagery and thus good possibilities for sales.

When they hung the works - you can't overhang at Scope, so about seven paintings were displayed - she realized that she had made one major error. More on that later...

In the first two days of Scope, all of the paintings sold, and the "extra" two which had been shipped also sold later on. The artist was jubilant.

What was the gallerist's mistake?

With a $15,000 (plus the assistant's salary) expense, she needed to sell at least $30,000 worth of artwork in order just to break even (plus more to cover the assistant's salary).

With her artists' prices starting at $800 for a small oil and $3-4,000 for the other larger paintings, even though she sold out of all the work that she had shipped, she still lost about $4,000 in the event, and considered herself lucky to escape with this loss, which she attributed to failing to deduce that she had to sell at least $10,000 per wall in order to break even; a very basic mistake for an experienced gallerist.

In the old days, when an artist sold out, you raised his/her prices up a little the next time (she did this for the second hanging of the extra paintings); in these days of extreme financial austerity, that's not always a perfect formula anymore.

This is one of the many reasons why galleries go under: the enormous financial risk involved in participating in just about the only venues left where a gallery can sell art.

Art Scam

Some artists in the DMV and Baltimore area are being seduced by this scam email; make sure you ignore it:

From: Nelson Bateman
Date: March 20, 2011 8:13:24 AM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Subject: Interested in your work

The images in your website is so fascinating and so vivacious looking at each piece of work make me know you added so much dedication in making each work come out to life but unfortunately i lost the weblink but i was able to save your email address am writing you because i need your help to get back to your website so that i can be able to see more of your work and purchase some for my apartment. I reside in Queensland Australia hope to read from you soon.
For a link explaining how the scam works, click here.

Opportunity for Artists

Out of Order is the Maryland Art Place's Annual free-hung Benefit Exhibition, Silent Auction and Party!

Silent Auction and Gala: Friday, April 1st, 8 – 11pm. Join them for a fantastic evening of great art, music, food, and an open beer & wine bar.

Hanging Dates and Times: March 29, 7am – midnight. All Artists are invited to participate. During the One Day Only, Do‐It‐Yourself installation, March
29, 7am – midnight, each participating artist hangs one original piece in the MAP galleries. For submission guidelines, please visit MAP’s website Note: Artists are asked to support MAP by paying $10 to participate in Out of Order. Each participating artist receives one free ticket to the April 1 event.

Participation: There is a $10 participation fee to hang artwork in Out of Order. As a participating artist, you will be given one complimentary ticket to the gala on April 9th. ($40 value!). Proceeds will be split 50/50 between the artist and MAP.

How to Get Tickets: Purchase Tickets Online:
Current MAP Members must call to reserve their tickets. New or renewing members must join MAP by March 24 to receive complimentary ticket(s) to the event. Artist/Student/Individual members receive 1 Free Ticket; higher membership levels receive 2 Free Tickets. No tickets are mailed; names of ticket holders are held at the door.

For More Details: access their website: or call 410-962-8565.