Art fairs can be a thriving part of your art business strategy.
But, with so many opportunities out there, not to mention different jurors and application requirements for each, knowing how to tackle your applications can be the difference between a great or a mediocre show.
From submitting strong images to taking an impactful booth shot, read through our advice to see what it takes to successfully get accepted to art fairs.
Apply to the right shows.
If you’re serious about showing at art fairs, pay attention to this first step. Because no matter how good your work is, if it’s outside the realm of what a fair is looking for, then you have a slim chance of being accepted.
When applying to fairs and festivals in your area, check out opportunity sites like ArtFairInsiders.com and ArtFairCalendar.com where you can get a clear description of the event. Once you find an interesting opportunity, be sure to read the prospectus very carefully.
Think through each opportunity clearly and ask yourself, “Is this right for me and my artwork?” If not, it’s a waste of time, money, and effort that could be spent on a more promising opportunity.
Understanding that your work isn’t going to be a perfect fit for every opportunity will only make you a stronger candidate for the right opportunities. Don’t try and fit a square peg in a round hole, so to speak, by distorting your vision and integrity to fit an application. There are more opportunities out there, a whole world of opportunities, and there are opportunities that will be right for your work.
Pay attention to the details.
You’ve read the prospectus and you’ve decided you’re a great fit. Fantastic! The next step, before even starting your application, is to double check the requirements.
While it may be tempting to go above and beyond, make sure you send exactly what they ask for—whether it’s subject matter, file types and sizes, piece details, or the number of image submissions.
Remember: art fair jurors may have hundreds or thousands of artists to sift through. Playing by the rules will actually set you apart as a professional (while the uncooperative submissions only cause headaches). Respecting the requirements shows that you take direction well and will be easy to work with come fair time.
Some other things you should be paying attention to…
Familiarize yourself with call sites like Zapplication and CaFÉ to see how the submission process works. If submitting an application online, type your information correctly. If you’re mailing in your application, write legibly. Always proofread your writing, especially if an artist statement or CV is required.
The truth is, there isn’t a trick or secret formula for getting accepted to art fairs. It mostly comes down to following the rules and putting in the time and effort to do it the right way.
Your images will make or break you.
When it comes to submitting images of work, the same rules apply as they would for any juried show or competition.
To pass the test, they need to follow these rules: be high quality and in focus; be well lit and color corrected to show the true likeness of your artwork; work should be photographed parallel to the camera, and either cropped or on a neutral background.
Now, for what to submit…
“Everything should relate visually,” explains Joanne Fox, juror and exhibiting artist for over 30 years, on Artist’s Network. Keep your media consistent, with similar colors and style, so that judges get to see a complete and strong body of work.
“There are artists that work in different styles and mediums, but this is not the place where you show the breadth of what you do,” she explains. “You need a highly recognizable and distinctive style that comes through in the pieces you’re submitting. The body of work should be synergistic. Its impact should be greater than a single piece.”
Don’t know which pieces to pick? You can organize your work with Artwork Archive to easily view and manage cohesive collections of your work.
Another tip? If jurors provide a range of images you can submit, it’s wise to send the maximum amount possible to showcase your talent. But, you also have to remember that you will be judged on the weakest piece you submit. One bad piece is going to drag you down. When a juror sees something that’s weak or doesn’t fit, it makes the juror question your judgment or ability.
The order of submitted images can be quite important as well, reminds Carolyn. Ask yourself, “Does my submission flow in a way that carries the juror through from the first to the last image? How do the images I submit tell a story? How do they guide the juror through the images?”
Jurors are looking at images very quickly, you have two to three seconds to make an impression. You need a “wow” impact.
Snap the perfect booth shot.
Fairs and festivals usually require a booth shot. Show promoters don’t want an unprofessional booth to project negatively on them, so they want to see what you’ll bring to the table before you’re accepted.
If you don’t currently have one, we recommend setting up your example display either outside or in your studio—anywhere with impeccable lighting. Waiting for a cloudy day so there is even lighting with no harsh shadows.
Avoid cluttering your space with every piece of art you’ve ever created. There should not be people or anything distracting in the background. You may even want to skip putting glass in your frames to avoid obscuring your work with any reflections.
Juried art photographer Larry Berman has seen it all. What does he recommend? Your booth image should convey your style and scale of work. The canopy should be white and all three walls need to be visible in the picture. Also, make sure the tops of your pieces in the top row are all at the same height, and if you will use bins for unframed work, include a representative amount of bins in the picture. You can find more art show booth display tips from Larry here.
And, art fair booths don't have to break the bank. Check out these easy and affordable DIY options.
Your booth shot is very important, but one outstanding shot can last for years. Photographers can also be available to take booth shots at shows, so be sure to jump on the opportunity if needed.
Develop a system.
You don’t want to be digging for images, details, or documents last minute. A rushed, subpar application will probably land itself in the rejection pile.
If deadlines have a habit of creeping up on you, but you’re serious about showing art your art, you’ll need to find a way to stay organized and tackle art fair applications easily. An art inventory management system like Artwork Archive can be the perfect solution.
With your art inventory at your fingertips, you’ll be able to choose the right collection of pieces for your application (with high-quality images and details like dimensions and availability at the ready).
Does your application ask for an image list? Create one with the push of a button. Show history? A complete history is recorded in your inventory. Artist statement? Stored with other important documents on your cloud-based account.
Add application deadlines to the “My Schedule” feature and receive email reminders before it’s time to submit. You’ll never miss out on these opportunities again.