Art & Collectibles Market

How to prepare for an Art Fair ? A guide for business professionals

Art fairs have redefined the concept of collecting in the 21st century. Intended as a place for dealers, collectors, and connoisseurs of art to meet, exhibition-based events have grown into an international phenomenon.

Rita Hamri

4 min

Art Fair 101* - Plensa

Before

Similar to any professional event, planning is key. Art Fairs tend to be in remote locations outside of a city and most of the time they are mapped out like a true maze. The first thing to do is to choose the right fair to attend based on your goals, so taking a look at the exhibitors list beforehand is crucial. You have to know where you want to go and who you want to see. The second thing to do is to understand and clarify the purpose of your trip - is it to create new connections? Are you looking to grow you gallery or business presence in a specific region with a specific set of collectors? Or perhaps, are you simply curious and keen to discover new artists? Doing this work beforehand is clearly a way to save time and energy during your trip, so that you can  enjoy the perks of the fair. 

Furthermore before buying your ticket, you should definitely take a look at the conferences and different workshops that are being organised, since they might be of interest to you . This is our favorite part of Art Fairs - the intellectual stimulation,  the topics discussed, and the speakers involved are simply a great way to learn more about the industry. However you should be cautious since at most fairs these events are sold out weeks in advance and spots are extremely limited. Our advice if you are really keen to attend an event that is fully booked, is to arrive early and put your name on the waiting list. Most of the time they do have last minute cancellations or no-shows, so there’s always hope!

Fairs season is also an amazing opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues and connections. Take advantage of this “social gathering” to meet up and expand your network. Do not hesitate to reach out and attend events together. Most of the time, similar to fashion weeks, major fairs create an Art week in a city with a whole artsy ecosystem of countless  events, cocktails, openings and side-exhibitions. Once again, having a look at these beforehand is essential. 

Alternatively fairs can be a great opportunity for you to host an event yourself. Depending on your business model and your resources, you can host a variety of different events ranging from gallery popups, to talks, cocktails, and collaborations. Doing this can be a real game-changer in that you gain visibility,  expand your network, and build a strong/relevant reputation in the Art World. If you decide to go for this option, reach out to your old clients and take advantage of the fairs as a momentum to reconnect. These kind of events can be quite costly hence in order to make the most of it, be sure that you have a strong digital coverage e.g. online resources and social media.

During

Take note of everything that is happening around you, for instance new artists, booth’s designs or curation, talks’ quality, organisation, business cards, or just of the peculiarities of the fair compared to others. These are actually really important insights to keep for the future e.g. for following art fairs that you might attend… 

Although being stylish is important in the Art World, we do advise to consider a fair like a Jungle: 

- You need comfortable shoes 

- A tote bag to take your free Art Newspaper and other essentials

- Your Business cards, a notebook and a pen 

- A bottle of water 

- Your Smile  and confidence ! Be ready to interact and be optimistic about it - ask questions, be curious and enjoy the conversation! 

After - the 3R’s 

Rest, Art fairs can be extremely tiring and stressful. Walking all day long, meeting new people and absorbing so much information in such a short amount of time, it is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed after it. Don’t hesitate to take a few days of rest for yourself and enjoy the city you are staying in (Hong Kong, New York, Paris or Basel). 

Recontact, don’t forget to follow up on the amazing encounters you had . A short email, a newsletter or perhaps a quick phone is always a great idea to keep in touch. It is important when building a network to entertain the relationship for the long term and perhaps for the next encounter. 

Reflect, it happens that you didn’t get the results that you wanted or you didn’t fully benefit from your experience . It can be pretty harsh and difficult the first time so don’t beat yourself up, simply  take the time to reflect on what you could have done better and implement these ideas for the next time! 

September 5, 2019

Rita Hamri