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Festivals and Other Events: The Art of the Sale

Imagine this: ArtsPlosion 2004! It’s Saturday afternoon, the weather is perfect, and you're showing off your work at one of the premier arts festivals in your area. You glance at your booth and setup - your work has never looked better! All the time you’ve spent on your art, mounts, mats and displays has been worthwhile. People pause, look and you smile; but the crowd passes you by. You glance at the booths to the east and west ¯ buyers are so thick, they’re waiting in line. You look closer; the work is okay, but not nearly as good as yours. You listen for a moment; the prices are high. But there sure is a lot of chatter next door..

You’re an artist with art, fine art; quality art... but have you refined the art of the sale? The following tips are written with festivals, art shows and other events in mind, but hold true for gallery settings, as well.


  1. Pack your portfolio and showcase it. Potential customers will be more inclined to purchase when they can visualize your art or photographs in home or office settings. Past sales beget future ones.

  2. Looking busy is a precursor to being busy at business. Before a show, alert your existing customers and potential customer base. If possible, send ‘exclusive’ invitations, e-mails, or hand-deliver flyers through your local network to optimize visitors and visits from friends and supporting artists..

  3. Invite a friend or two to help ¯ it’s often easier for chatty friends to promote your talent and custom work, offer framing options, up sell frames and additional art and prints. Meanwhile, you may want to consider operating a workstation, which will intrigue potential buyers, invite their questions and create comfortable and natural opportunities to discuss your art.

  4. Measure the ‘friendly quotient.’ Is the spectator space inviting? Open? Warm and friendly? Offer a range of art, themes, color and prices? Remember, small cramped spaces will deter traffic, since customers don’t want to feel trapped. Think of your spectators’ breathing room just as you think of your works’ white space. Open space and visitor incentives such as hot coffee, Italian ice, a glass of wine, popcorn or a surprise might compel them to stay, along with seating and a table to flip through your portfolio or catalogue.:

  1. Greet your customers as they enter your booth...say "hello".

  2. Watch for opportunities to engage customers: to draw questions and answers from them, to suggest, ask for opinions about likes and dislikes, room design, art interests. Share preferences, anecdotes. Think of the relationship as your objective, not the sale, and your time invested in selling will be a genuine investment, now and later!

  3. Offer information about your work - what motivates you, where you find subject material, themes, inspiration and meaning. Whenever possible, give visitors a ‘leave-behind,’ something to take away about your work as a memento, possibly a pre-printed card with one of your images and a brief bio on the back. This extends opportunity to purchase. In return for your gift, ask for their information so you can alert them to future shows, sales, and promotions.

  4. Personalize the sale. Ask potential customers to describe the setting: its mood, colors, light and the ‘feel’ or ‘look’ they’re seeking. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions or to ask about budget. Often, a customer’s budget is a driving concern and they are probably reluctant to mention it.

  5. Consider your return and payment policy. Artists who ‘loan’ art, offer installment plans and agree to accept returns may be taking risks, but they’re probably surpassing any losses with increased revenues.

  6. Be aware of the fine line between pushing vs. servicing and selling. Offer, suggest, describe and inform, then allow your visitors the time to think, the time they need to become buyers.


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