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How to choose art work for an art fair

Possibly one of the more important decisions you'll make during any art fair prep.

What to put on the walls.

Of course we have ideas as to what will delight the eyes of prospective buyers. It's easy to assume the process is straight froward. I was under the same impression till I experienced the reality. In turn, time after time, my casual approach brought me back to a state of frustration.


I've likened the experience to the standard emotive creative process. Exhausting, painful and reliving my terrible two's. Perhaps a bit dramatic but you get the picture.



With the instinctive desire to avoid any undue stress I've developed a process that eliminates the pressure and panic faced when art work must be displayed on walls.


So here we go, my advice to you, if you wish to take it. I hope it helps reduced some stress from art fair preparation. If you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments section below. I would love to hear them!


Where oh where is your art work on display?


Have you been invited to take part in an Art fair or are you partaking in an open studio? The approach for each will be slightly different.


If you're involved in an art fair, you'll have some extra help. You should be provided with wall measurements and a floor plan. If you're partaking in a open studio, most likely it's your own space, you should measure the walls you wish to display artwork on.


Choose your work


Your body of work needs to make sense for visitors, otherwise it might throw them off. At this point it would be a good to switch your perspective to that of a consumer, if being consumer centric in your thinking is difficult, ask a friend what they think..


If you have an eclectic style like myself, narrow down what you wish to display to a maximum of two styles.


The key to selecting the work you wish to shine is to choose a theme, whether it's a common colour, or a specific style. Remember people like order, if they visit your studio/stall and find a range of paintings that are very different they are less likely to engage. Too much chaos is off putting.


Have a selection of art work so you have plenty to choose from and shortlist from there. Pick your favourites and your second favourites, you might be surprised that your least favourite could be a real winner!



Don't think of the ka-ching!


As temping as it is to hang the works you feel will sell and get past breakeven into profit territory, I would advise against this as temping as it might be. Yes as artists we want quick wins, its hard out there. Desperation is a unseated energy that we all sniff out, potential consumers can pick up on that - remember when dating and the key advice is not to come across as desperate, the same rules apply here.


Art is a slow game, it takes years for those profits to come through. One of the best stories I heard was via Alex Rennie many years pervious he had partaken in the Wimbledon Art Fair, almost 6/7 years later a fan came back to buy one of his paintings.

Open studios and Art Fairs are where you make those connections. You can't predict what will or won't sell. However, it is highly possible that a client will reach out to you a few months or years down the line.


Don't over crowd


You want visitors to be able to take in your stars, not feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to look. If you're finding it hard to decided what to put on your wall ask around. See what friends or family think. As a old friend once said 'kill your darlings' in other words be brutal and honest about the work you love most, is it really needed?



Mini Me


Draw a mockup of the studio dimensions on paper, It doesn't have to be exact, enough to give you an idea of the space you're working with. Include any features, plugs, switches, windows etc. If you're participating in a fair you will be provided with dimensions of the the wall and most likely it will be free of any obstacles.


Minis always win


PowerPoint or paper - the choice is yours.

By now you will have selected your long or short list. Take photos of the work that made the cut, phone is fine, it doesn't have to be high quality. The purpose of this is to give you a visual idea of what the end product will look like. You can either print the paintings or use powerpoint.


If you choose to print, ensure you stay true to the original dimension of the painting, if using powerpoint to mock out simply crop the images to reflect its true size.


Mock it out


This is where the fun begins. Digital or paper simply move the paintings around and see what works and doesn't. This will ensure your prep is efficient and smooth.


Once you have selected a layout you're happy with, save and print your PowerPoint doc, if using paper, glue down your final selection.


I hope this helps you with you art fair prep or any gallery wall ideas you have for your home. Please share the pics of your final hang, I would love to see them!


See more of my work here

© Sarah Ellen Reiter