How to Sell to the 9 People You'll Meet at an Art Fair

Artwork Archive | February 1, 2024

Artwork Archive artist Louie Rochon sits relaxed in a chair, smiling in front of a vibrant display of his colorful, abstract paintings in an art gallery. The artworks feature a variety of themes and textures, with prominent floral motifs, energetic abstract patterns, and vivid colors, all framed and hung on a well-lit gallery wall.

Artwork Archive artist Louie Rochon in front of his work. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Art fairs are invaluable opportunities for artists to connect with their audience.

They provide you with the opportunity to directly engage with your audience, gain exposure to a diverse range of potential buyers, gather valuable market research insights, and seize lucrative sales opportunities. Plus, they offer a chance to network within the art community, building connections with art enthusiasts, collectors, and fellow artists.

But, are you finding that your sales occasionally lag, even when your booth is bustling with foot traffic? Here’s something to think about: a lot of the people that walked in and out of your booth may have been closer to purchasing something than you realized. With the right strategies and sales techniques, you can transform these potential buyers into satisfied customers. Understanding the profiles of the individuals you encounter can make a significant difference in your sales success.

Here are nine types of people you may meet at an art fair, and how to interact with them strategically:

Then, read on to find out how you can discover upcoming art fairs you can apply to! 

Artwork Archive artist Marisabel Gonzalez in her stall during the Opening Night of The Other Art Fair in Sydney July 2022. She is pictured between two other people and they are all standing in front of a bright, abstract painting with bold strokes and the text 'WE SHOULD KISS' prominently displayed. The artist is mid-conversation, laughing and holding a smartphone, while the visitors are attentively listening and interacting with her

Artwork Archive artist Marisabel Gonzalez in her stall during the Opening Night of The Other Art Fair in Sydney July 2022

The Casual Shopper

Casual shoppers attend art fairs for leisure and exploration. They might not have a specific purchase in mind but could be open to making spontaneous buys if something captivates them.

Here's how to turn 'just looking' into 'can't resist':

Make sure you create an inviting and approachable atmosphere at your booth. Ask questions about what type of artwork they're interested in and why. Engage them with stories behind your art or intriguing details about individual pieces. Encourage them to ask questions and take their time exploring your work. 

Mention that you have a newsletter where art enthusiasts like them can stay informed about your latest creations, special deals, and discounts. Have a clipboard ready for them to sign up, ensuring they're the first to know about exciting updates.

Before they leave, hand them your business card! Maybe even consider writing a personalized note on the back thanking them for stopping by. This not only serves as a convenient way to contact you but also keeps your name and work fresh in their minds—and the personal touch will make you that much more memorable.

Remember, even if a casual shopper doesn't make a purchase today, they may become a repeat customer down the road. Building connections and offering ways for them to stay engaged with your art can lead to future opportunities and sales. So, make every interaction a memorable one!

Pro Tip:

At the end of the day (or when you have some downtime at your booth), add the contact information from your newsletter sign-up sheet directly into Artwork Arcive's integrated CRM. You can even add personalized notes about each contact such as memorable conversations or particular pieces they were interested in.

 

The Collector

Art fairs are a treasure trove for collectors, and they come to art fairs with a clear mission—to add exceptional pieces to their existing collections. They often have a discerning eye for specific artists or genres and are willing to invest in valuable artworks. What sets collectors apart is their willingness to invest, not just financially, but emotionally as well, in securing valuable artworks. They see art not just as something beautiful, but how it can also be an investment with the potential to appreciate over time.

Here's how to make your art a prized addition to their collection:

Engaging with collectors requires a certain level of professionalism and attention to detail. They appreciate artists who can delve into the provenance and significance of your work, so come prepared to do that. Share insights into how your pieces could be valuable additions to their collection, both artistically and as potential investments.

Help them envision the long-term worth and significance of your art within their curated collection. This approach demonstrates your commitment to their collecting journey and can leave a lasting impression.

Pro Tip:

Artwork Archive empowers you to maintain a comprehensive record of your art's history. This includes past exhibitions and sales, which can significantly enhance the appeal of your work to collectors.

Not to mention it allows you to send professional reports and interactive Private Rooms. This level of professionalism and accessibility can be a game-changer when it comes to engaging collectors and making your art more enticing to them.

As with any potentially interested client, ask the collector for their contact information. You can then use Artwork Archive's Contact Groups to efficiently organize the types of potential clients, making it easy to segment your contacts when you're ready to reach out in the future.

 

The Bargain Hunter

One thing to remember about a bargain hunter is that if they’re negotiating with you, they’re interested in making a purchase. It sounds simple, but from a sales perspective, these folks already have a foot in the door. But, don’t feel like you have to compromise because they have the upper hand as a consumer. 

Here’s how to deal with a dealmaker:

Be open to negotiations, but maintain the value of your work. Politely explain your pricing structure and consider offering limited discounts if they align with your sales goals. Try saying things like, “I’ve come down from the full price. There’s been a lot of interest in this piece and I want you to have it, but need it to sell it for a fair price.”

If you’re comfortable and willing to haggle, by all means, engage with them. In general, avoid marking things down by more than twenty percent, especially early in the show. Make sure to know the cost and price breakdown of what you’re selling. What kind of wiggle room do you actually have to make up for materials and time? These numbers matter.

If you’ve come down as low as possible and they’re still pushing, remind them about the workmanship nicely but firmly: “That's a really special piece and it took a lot of time. I can’t let it go for anything less.” Chances are if they’re really interested in the piece, they’ll respect this ultimatum.

Pro Tip:

Use Artwork Archive to have a clear record of your pricing and cost details, making it easier to explain and justify your prices during negotiations.

Artwork Archive artist Dorina Sinnett at a Pop-up Art Exhibition at Oceanside Museum in 2021.  The artist is pictured crouching smiling beside her colorful, mixed-media artwork displayed at an outdoor art exhibition. She is stylishly dressed in a white outfit with a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

Artwork Archive artist Doriana Sinnett at a Pop-Up Art Exhibition at Oceanside Museum 2021

The Artist Who Wants to Trade (or Who You Want to Trade With)

One of the most exciting parts of art fairs is that you can discover amazing art created by other artists. There’s a good chance those artists are scouting your booth also. When that's the case, trading can be a great option.

Here's how to approach art trades like a pro: 

In these transactions, it's important to respect the work of others and feel that yours is appreciated too. If you’re approaching someone to ask them for a trade, let them know you’d also be happy to purchase the item. If someone wants to trade with you, don’t hesitate to say that you’d rather them buy something outright. After all, they understand your need to make an income off of your artwork firsthand, and it's alright to vocalize your need for this.

But, what if someone really digs your work and you just aren't into what they're making? In such cases, try to be sensitive, but direct, when saying no. The last thing you want is to let a great piece go in exchange for something you aren't crazy about—but you also don't want to make any enemies. 

Beyond trading, art fairs are a great place for artists to explore potential collaborations! Be open to this idea when meeting and talking with other artists—it's a great way to network and expand your art practice. Collaboration can lead to exciting projects, shared exhibitions, and the opportunity to learn from each other's creative processes!

Pro Tip:

As you mingle with your fellow artists, don't hesitate to share the secret to your efficient art management—Artwork Archive. You can also take advantage of our Refer a Friend Program. Where you and your new artist friend will both get a $10 Artwork Archive credit when they subscribe to a paid plan!

 

The Person Who Wants a Custom Piece

They think your work is incredible, but that a more turquoise-heavy version of your latest creation would be a fabulous centerpiece for their living room. They’re willing to pay for this privilege and approach you with an offer.

Here's how to make the commission process as smooth as possible:

If you’re going to do custom work, make sure to agree on a few things beforehand. First, ask yourself these ten questions before accepting the commission. 

Before you commit to customizing something, make sure you have the time and interest. You don’t want to invest a lot of time creating something you aren’t invested in. Only agree to create a piece when you’re excited about the final product and it aligns with your creative goals and aspirations as an artist. 

Then, you need a firm commitment that your potential client will purchase the completed work—you don’t want to be stuck with hard-to-sell turquoise inventory if they bail.

Commission contracts should explicitly outline the terms, including pricing, project timeline, any specific requirements or preferences, and a clear understanding of revisions or adjustments. These agreements provide a solid foundation for both you and your client and ensure that you are on the same page throughout the custom piece's creation.

Pro Tip:

Start by using Artwork Archive's Private Rooms feature to curate a collection of artworks similar to what piqued your client's interest at your booth. They can even 'favorite' or comment on specific pieces, providing valuable insights that guide you in crafting their custom piece.

Once you have a clear direction, generate an Online Invoice. Our professional-quality invoices help make sure you’re taken seriously and appear like the pro you are. Plus, with Artwork Archive's invoicing feature, you can enable partial payments, making it easy to request and receive payments in installments—a particularly helpful feature for larger custom projects.

 

The Indecisive Shopper

This particular shopper always leaves a huge pile of “maybes” in the dressing room. Now, they’ve allocated a whole section of your booth to items under consideration. They can’t make up their mind and after twenty minutes mention, “I’m going to walk around and circle back.” Given how indecisive they are, they may get bogged down at another booth and forget about yours entirely.

Here's how to help them make up their mind:

Weigh in—let them know if a piece is your favorite or if the story behind the piece is extra special. This input from the artist can be the push they need to decide that one piece stands out above the rest.

Offer to hold something. This does a few things to assuage their decision-anxiety. It forces them to make a decision about which products to hold and helps you gauge how serious they are. If they seem pretty committed to your work, you should set aside at most three items (unless they’ve expressed interest in buying more than one).

As you’re setting the products aside create a sense of urgency by saying, “There’s been a lot of interest in these so I’ll only be able to keep them back here for an hour or two. After that, I can’t promise it’ll be here.”

This informal agreement is also laying the groundwork for a future sale. They’ll be visiting a lot of booths and will better remember yours if you’re holding three pieces they agonized over. When the show is closing and they’re still deciding, you want them to remember your booth!

Bonus points: Offering to hold a piece opens up a friendly conversation where you can ask for their name and contact details. This way, even if they don't return immediately, you can stay in touch, nurture the relationship, and possibly convert them into a customer in the future.

Pro Tip:

When you offer to put a piece on hold, you can change the status of the chosen pieces to "reserved" within Artwork Archive, ensuring that they are set aside for the indecisive shopper. This not only helps you maintain an organized inventory, but doing it in front of your potential client could demonstrate your professionalism. It may even instill trust and credibility, making them more inclined to return and complete their purchase.

(Remember, you can access your Artwork Archive account from any device!)

Artwork Archive artist Brittney Ciccone at The Other Art Fair in Brooklyn, NY.  The artist is wearing a chic, form-fitting, ribbed dress is arranging a collection of monochromatic and abstract art pieces on a gallery wall. Her attention is focused on aligning the frames, which exhibit a mix of dynamic black and white strokes, some accented with gold and beige tones. The artwork conveys a sense of fluid motion and contrasts

Artwork Archive artist Brittney Ciccone at The Other Art Fair in Brooklyn, NY

The Curators and Gallery Owners

Curators and gallery owners attend art fairs with the primary goal of discovering fresh talent. They are on the lookout for artists who possess a unique voice or perspective that could add value to their gallery's roster and may offer opportunities for representation or collaboration. 

Here's how to make them take notice: 

Have a digital or physical portfolio ready to share, showcasing your best work—and make sure it's presented professionally. Include information about your artistic journey, past exhibitions, and any notable achievements or awards.

Be willing to discuss your art in-depth. Be open to sharing your creative process, inspirations, and the story behind your work. This can help them connect with you on a deeper level. Even if you think you know everything about your artwork, finding the right order to talk about it can be tricky. You might feel completely comfortable talking about your work in a conversation, but without prompting or natural pauses, it can be difficult to speak about your work for a solid five minutes or so.

But, just as with most things in art and life, practice only makes you better.

Don't hesitate to inquire about their gallery's current focus or upcoming exhibitions. Asking your own questions and showing an interest in their work and curatorial vision can leave a positive impression.

Pro Tip:

Start by creating a stunning portfolio on your Public Profile that showcases your art in an organized and visually appealing manner. You can even add QR codes to the pieces you have displayed in your booth that will redirect those who scan to your Public Profile. This digital portfolio allows a curator or gallery owner to navigate through your body of work, providing an immediate overview of your artistic journey and the range of pieces you offer.

You can also generate professional Inventory Reports. Print out a few ahead of time! Having these reports on hand allows you to offer a quick and comprehensive glimpse into your available artwork. They can see the titles, dimensions, mediums, and even high-quality images of your pieces at a glance. This not only saves time but also enhances your professionalism and makes it convenient for them to consider your art for their gallery or exhibition.

 

The Media Maven

These individuals typically include social media managers, journalists, and digital marketers representing larger organizations and are sent to attend and explore art fairs. While they might not be there to make purchases, establishing a connection with them is still a wise move.

Talking with these visitors can lead to significant exposure for you and your art. They may be interested in featuring your booth, showcasing your artwork, or even getting a quote from you for their content. They may even be open to scheduling an interview with you, or other collaboration opportunities down the line. Plus, their large following could mean an instant dose of exposure.

Here's how to influence the influencers:

Approach them with a warm and welcoming attitude. Offer to provide information about your art and booth, and be open to answering any questions they may have. If they are taking photographs or filming your booth, express your willingness to help in any way you can. This can also ensure an accurate representation of you and your work.

Use business cards and make sure your contact information is readily available. Include your website, social media handles, and email address on your promotional materials and business cards, making it easy for media professionals to reach out.

Extend an invitation for an exclusive studio visit or a private viewing of your latest work. Giving media mavens an opportunity to experience your art firsthand can result in more in-depth coverage, and generate more interest around your art.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Many Media Mavens will post pictures or videos of artwork from art fairs on their social media channels. To make the most of this opportunity, Use Artwork Archive's Artwork Labels to make sure your artwork is clearly labeled with your name, detailed information about each piece, and any additional relevant info. This helps guarantee that when your work is featured, it's accurately attributed to you.

Be sure to have all of your social media handles accessible so your art page can get tagged, too! 

 

The Elusive Advisor

At art fairs, you may come across The Elusive Advisor, a discreet and discerning professional who often represents high-net-worth collectors, investors, or prestigious art institutions. These advisors operate in the shadows, seeking exceptional artwork on behalf of their clients or organizations. They are well-connected and have a deep understanding of the art market, and their primary goal is to source valuable pieces that align with their clients' tastes and investments.

Here's how to pique their interest:

Similar to the Art Collector, be prepared to articulate not only the artistic merits of your work but also its investment potential. Engage in thoughtful conversations about your art and the art market in general, without pushing for quick decisions. They might need some time to evaluate if your work fits their clients' objectives.

Talk about elements that make your art stand out and its possible long-term value in the art market. You may need to do some research ahead of time on current art market trends, and gauge if your work aligns with them (it's okay if it doesn't).

Even if they don't make a purchase on the spot, establishing a relationship and building connections with The Elusive Advisor can open doors to significant opportunities for your art career.

Artwork Archive Tip:

To make a lasting impression, craft sleek and professional Catalog or Portfolio Pages. These pages can be created in a few clicks and showcase high-quality images of your art, detailed descriptions, provenance information, and any relevant market data highlighting the investment potential. 

Remember to always respect an advisor's need for discretion—some prefer not to be seen buying art in person. Offer printed Catalog Pages that they can take back to discreetly share with their clients. 

 

Two individuals, a man and a woman, appear to be deeply engrossed in conversation while examining a collection of botanical prints. The man, dressed in a brown jacket and blue shirt, gestures towards one of the artworks, while the woman, with short white hair and wearing glasses and a navy shawl over a white top, listens attentively. The artwork displays meticulous illustrations of white flowers against a dark background

Art fairs offer an exciting and vibrant atmosphere with countless opportunities

Whether you come across the Casual Shopper, the Collector, or the Artist Who Wants to Trade, using these strategies can result in meaningful relationships, connections, and a general expansion of your network. By harnessing the power of Artwork Archive and leveraging its valuable tools, you can streamline your art management, impress potential clients, and enhance your art career.

Check out our Guide to the Best Artist Opportunities in 2024 to discover upcoming art fair opportunities!

A colorful promotional banner for a guide to the best artist opportunities in 2024. It features bold, playful graphics with a hand holding a paintbrush, poised to paint on a pink and green notepad. The background is a bright teal with a pattern of black dots. The text invites artists to 'Get the Guide' for the best art opportunities, artist grants, and calls-for-entry in the coming year, directing them to Artwork Archive's 2024 Guide to Artist Opportunities

If you haven't already, give Artwork Archive a try for free and experience firsthand how it can elevate your art fair experiences into thriving opportunities.

Purple graphic with screenshots of Artwork Archive's system. White text reads: Artwork Archive: An online portfolio + business management platform for artists. Get the all-in-one platform artists use to manage their artwork and career. Green button that says Try it Free leads to Artwork Archive's main sign up page.

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