I’m recovering from exhibiting at the Symposium des Arts de Prévost: 5 gorgeous (sweltering) days of showing my work en plein air, under a tent! It was my first time participating at an outdoor art fair. Overall, I consider it to have been a positive experience, but it’s perhaps ultimately not the ideal way for me to get my work out there. I did decide that this year I’d try as many different avenues as possible in order to figure out where I can situate my work, so I’m very happy to have participated.
On the plus side, I sold 5 small paintings and one framed work on paper, I met several interesting artists and saw some impressive work, I got to chat about art with a few interested passersby and I reconnected with some people I haven’t seen in a while. It was a bit of a thrill to see a good number of my paintings hanging together, especially considering what a challenge it was to hang the work in a tent. If I ever do another art fair, I’ll invest in a sturdy hanging system – I hung my paintings on string from the top bars of the tent’s structure, so every time the wind blew, I was in a tent filled with merrily dancing art. Lots of fun, but not practical!
I also learned that it’s important to ask for an advantageous tent position: I was located in an isolated area behind the main area, so all the artist in our row got less than half the traffic that the other area received.
Another important lesson: less is more. Hanging too many canvases together looks cluttered and doesn’t draw people in. Instead, they tend to look at a crowded tent as a whole and move on quickly. Hanging fewer pieces with lots of white space encourages viewers to focus in on single pieces or groupings, which allows them to become interested and engaged with the work.
I’d been told beforehand that I probably wouldn’t sell much, if at all at this particular venue, and that there mightn’t be many people there who’d be interested in abstract art. Having now experienced it for myself, I’m a little bit doubtful of the whole symposium concept as a place to sell my work. It’s clear that people attend art fairs to browse around on a sunny day as they walk the dog and the kids in their strollers, and not to invest in $1000 paintings. Not many actually go into the tents and speak to the artists about the work being shown. With few to no serious buyers, it’s a bit of a waste of time to sit there for 5 whole days because the truth is, as much as any artist makes the work for herself because she’s compelled to, there comes a time when the work needs to be seen, and ideally, sold. It feels sad to make all these beautiful pieces only to have them sit wrapped up in a dark cupboard. I think it will be more useful for me to find venues that are frequented by people who are truly interested in the type of work that I do and who have money to spend on art. I’m thinking I might do better at a larger urban art fair if I choose to try another one.
In any case, a big thank you to everyone who came out to see the show!