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Ann Arbor Art Fair

Art Fairs – What you should know

Selling and buying at an art fair is a learning process.  Here are a few things you should know as a buyer and an artist:

  • Art Fairs are fun.   For those who attend art fairs it a wonderful event to see new art in a variety of forms from artists who come from many locations.  Attending is fun and there are items at every price point and make great gifts.  If you are looking for a statement piece for your home, it might be there.  Most people attend with friends or family and it is a special day out.
  • Attendees hope to buy art at a lower price than a traditional gallery.  This is usually true, and you might barter a bit if you’re bold enough. Often galleries don’t post the art prices making the experience a bit intimidating. 
  • Attending an art fair is far less intimidating than a traditional gallery.
  • Artists have a large investment in their booth and display.  A good tent can cost around $2,000.  The panel walls cost another few hundred each.  Each tent must have weights on the corners so a windy day (or night) will blow your tent and work away.  (Happened to me once).
  • Artists must submit an application months ahead and product images, hoping they are accepted or there is a spot in your category.
  • They must have a vehicle large enough to haul your tent, wall, artwork, table and chair.
  • Setting up your tent and contents is extremely hard work and usually on a hot day (the day before the event).
  • Art fair costs are expensive.  Booth fees can cost from a little as $3,000 and as high as $5,000.  The show I exhibit at each year (Chicago One of a Kind) cost $2,800 for your booth, $1,000 for the hotel stay, freight shipping possibly and food, etc. 
  • Artists must be in the booth at all times.  Imagine a three day show plus the set-up day.
  • Artists often have to pay the state sales tax before they leave the show.
  • Artists have to earn a lot of money to break even and then above that figure is profit. 
  • Tear down day, load car, drive home often disappointed in their earnings.

Artists are willing to go through this process because you usually can make money.  Meet new people and possibly future collectors.  All sales belong to them without paying the traditional gallery 50%.  And they are fun.

Both the artist and the attendee have fun, but attendees should know the behind the scenes work.

It’s summertime, go find an art fair to enjoy (and hopefully buy from a living artist).  I know I will.

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