I haven’t been saying much lately.
I read a lot and I’ve been working on some new ideas for people to see at the shows this year. I did not go south again this year and I have been absolutely amazed at the herd mentality of some people claiming to be artists “doing art fairs” in some forums and blogs on the internet – even the ones that kicked me out for my seditious and, and, and incendiary writing.
So, I’ve been reading, thinking, writing, and painting – I just haven’t said much lately. But now that the early shows are about done, I do have a few things to share with the shows, the artists, the “vendors”, and anyone else that gives a damn or pretends to give a damn about selling art this summer.
The season has started for artists and also for people hoping to be thought of as artists at the art shows this year. Generally the season for me and my peers starts in the midwest with a few “preseason” shows in March and April. No one makes a ton of money at them, but they garner a fairly respectable crowd and they help the artists and those “wannabe” vendors determine what may or may not be successful in terms of inventory and sales this year. It beats the hell out of traveling to Florida and coming home with a hotel bill. So we stay up here to shovel our driveways and prognosticate our entire regular season based on how well a crowd of people suffering from Cabin Fever will respond to new ideas and techniques. These little shows would never work in October or November – but they work in early Spring or at least they give us a reason to put the work out and see what happens. It’s what we do as artists – and the non-artists also get a chance to see how hard they will need to throw their crap at their trailer trash as well as our treasured patrons in order to see what will stick to the proverbial wall.
I have some suggestions for people to think about because I am not smart enough to get out of this dying industry. I stubbornly cling to the hope that the bad guys will go away and my customers will return to the good shows en masse.
The shows make a big deal out of providing water and toilets and snacks to the artists as a way of showing their remarkable hospitality. They also flood the show with their t-shirted volunteers that walk past the booth every 4.2 minutes asking: “Can I get you anything?”.
Stop. Just stop.
Grown adults can provide their own bottles, or camelskins, or barrels filled with the beverage of their choice. They can bring their own lunch. Hell, they can bring their own apple and granola bar. Stop with the hospitality. Want to show hospitality? Bring buyers. Bring buyers to the show. That’s all the buy/sell as well as genuine artists want at the show – buyers. If you cannot bring in buyers, at least drop the booth fee and keep your water, crackers, and apples. The bottom line? If you can’t bring in buyers, why are you having a show?
Stop telling people at the show they can buy for a lower price on Sunday. It’s not true and it’s foul. Almost as bad are the shows that say in media interviews: “You don’t need to buy, the artists are just as happy to talk about their work with you.”. No. Artists come to the shows to sell their work so they can pay their bills and provide for their families. Encourage buyers to buy art at the show.
Stop the charity auctions during the show. Why do artists that jumped through all the hoops, juried in, paid for a booth, and shouldered all the travel costs and expenses have to compete with their own work in a charity auction during the show? Yes, your show is a benefit, but who cares? As far as I and the other artists at your “benefit” show are concerned – our bank accounts are first on the benefit list. Bring in buyers.
Bring in buyers. Not bodies, buyers. If you need to have stiltwalkers to bring in bodies, then you have a craft show, not an art show.
Bring in buyers.
Stop saying 15,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 souls came to your show. Just stop it. Bring in buyers.
Keep your pompous judges out of my way when I am working with buyers. I bought the space at the show, it is my booth for the duration of the show. Not the judges’. If you are going to have judges, make sure they are qualified and competent and above all else, respectful.
Jury better. Stop with the excuses and the games and jury better. Display some kind of mature business attitude and communicate with applicants. Stop with the cutesy “please apply next year” rhetoric. If slides look like hell, say so. If the work doesn’t fit with what the show wants or envsions, say so. If you don’t like the artist, say so. Stop taking money in jury fees you don’t deserve. Act like you have a pair and communicate. Don’t ignore pleas from artists to communicate, be professional if you are going to have an art show by bringing in artists and, oh, bring in buyers.
Neighbors of mine for this year:
When I am busy selling, you had better be vomiting or bleeding and for a good reason before you interrupt me when I am talking with a patron.
If you don’t have a tidbit or tip about a show to share, do not come to me to ask about what I think about this or that show.
When I am setting up my booth, I don’t want to explain when, where, and how I got my tent – what kind it is, or even if I like it.
I am not going to explain my art to you during a show.
I will never, ever, ever, ever discuss tent weights with you. End of story. Go to Ma’s forum for that stuff.
When you push that 4 gallons of water out of the corners of your pathetic EZ-Down, someone or someone’s artwork is standing not far from where you just ejaculated your rainwater reservoir. Think about that the next time you are at a rainy show and your want to prove what a moron you really are.
Stay within your marked space. Don’t you even think of putting your crap out in the aisle.
Customers and non-customers:
I don’t care if you scored one of my $200 paintings for $35 at the crappy little silent auction the show is having. Don’t tell me about it. Don’t come ask me to sign it for you. If you do come to tell me about it, I am going to sell you another painting out of my booth until you either buy one or walk out of the booth.
I am there to sell art. I don’t care what your art teacher said I would do for you. I am at the show to sell art. If your art teacher wants an interview, tell him or her I am happy as hell to come into their classroom on Monday and conduct the interview in the middle of his or her workday in his or her workspace.
I am not going to conduct a clinic on art in my booth so you can become an artist. Want to be an artist? Go to school like I did. Would you stop an accountant at their job to ask how they do their work? A lawyer? A surgeon? A meth dealer? Why do you get to ask me in my booth about how you can do what I do? (I don’t know either.)
Don’t photograph my work. I’ll tolerate you pretending I am not in my own booth, but you may not photograph my work.
Stop thanking me for “sharing”. I didn’t share anything. I am not at the show to entertain you. I will be polite to you, but I am not at the show to amuse you as you stroll the art fair. I am at the show to sell my work to people interested in buying art. Brief compliments and criticisms are welcome but my job is to sell art, it’s how I earn my living. Stop accusing me of abusing drugs to make my work, and by the way, I don’t care that you wonder how my mind works or that my work would never fit in with the crap you already have in your home. I am not a fast-food cashier or a waitress for you to browbeat while your friends chuckle. I am an artist.
None of this will happen. The shows will pretent they didn’t read it. The artists will think I am talking about someone else. The non-artists will think I am talking about non-artists, not them because they think they have convinced others that they are artists. (Think about that one, it’ll make sense.) Non-patrons will take umbrage, but not change their behavior. I know nothing will change right away.
But people will know I wrote about it and after all, if hollow trees indeed get chopped down – do they make any noise?