Art & Collectibles Market

How to prepare for an International Art Fair ? A guide for exhibitors

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

Introduction

According to Art Basel, Art Fairs sales were estimated to reach $16.5 Billion in 2018.  International Art fairs are becoming more and more popular and represent an important source of revenue. Today, more than 300 Art Fairs exist internationally with thousands of smaller regional and local versions all with a wide variety of specialisation. In 2018, dealers reported spending approximately $4.8 billion attending and exhibiting at fairs. Art Fairs are social hubs that allows dealers to gain in visibility and open their network, and as such they are an important opportunity  for dealers to create many synergies with different actors. In this article, we will outline some key tips about how you, an exhibitor, can best prepare for these kind of events and how to make the most of them . 

Choose wisely

The most important thing is to choose the right fair and to be chosen by the right one. Hence, based on your business model, your resources and your positioning, select the fair you want to participate in and provide them with a clear and well-researched application. Similarly to a job interview, you have to do your work beforehand and see whether this opportunity is right for you. You need to pay attention to details and properly select the artists you want to exhibit. For instance, consider the geographical location of the fair and the type of potential clients you may have. With this information you will then be able to construct a well thought and comprehensive portfolio that will make a difference.

Cost & return

Secondly, there are some key questions that you have to ask yourself on a practical basis so that you can choose wisely. Do you have enough resources to do things correctly? How much is the square meter worth? How want you make sure that you snag  the perfect booth ? Are you aware of the legislation in the foreign country? What are the fees of participation? Quite simply, does the cost equal the return? 

Artists

After your application is validated, you need to cherry pick the artists and pieces you want to exhibit. A well curated booth can make a big difference and unlock a multitude of opportunities. Choose your art and artists wisely depending on the type of gallery you represent; for instance, you might want to choose an emerging artist that you want to push internationally, or you could  also play it safe with a well-established artist that will bring traction to your booth. Additionally, think of Art Fairs as a great way to understand the potential of new artists in the market.

Curation

More generally, the way your gallery is curated in terms of wall colors, installations, and setting will have a direct impact on your booth’s success. Most Art Fairs take place in industrial setting where any wall colors can be appropriate, however other ones will have more strict requirements and historical settings where the visuals need to blend. Don’t forget to think about storage of your pieces in order to renew the visuals of your booth as the art fair goes on!

Shipping

While shipping for an Art fair, whether you are managing it directly or it is arranged by the Art Fair itself, make sure you choose the right freight forwarder to provide you with the right service e.g. temporary export, high quality wood crates, assembling at the fair booth (Why not Convelio?). Shipping for art fairs can be quite stressful due to the amount of time and money invested prior to  the event, so the last thing you want is one of the art pieces to arrive broken and not be able to exhibit it at your booth. 

Sales

Before the event, make sure that you select the right sales team for the fair. Depending on the fair location, it is always beneficial to have someone who speaks the local language. Having polyglot individuals in your team will always be a great asset for client relations, networking, and the fairs success. Digital coverage is also essential in order to make the most of the event. Make sure you align your digital tools (e.g. instagram …) and try to get involved in the press releases/media creation of the Art Fair. Indeed, this is a great way to have a large diversified coverage and enter new circles of collectors.

Conclusion

To finish, try to enjoy as much as possible, working in an Art Fair can be overwhelming but it's certainly a great way to meet new people, develop a network and enjoy the most glamorous part of the Art World.  It’s a well known fact that the major fairs create a whole artsy ecosystem burgeoned with countless  events, cocktails, openings and exhibitions. This is part of the wonderful job task of working in the Art World!

September 5, 2019

Rita Hamri