June 2023: Are Art Fairs Worth It?

are art fairs worth it? Aisling Drennan at the other art fair

Are art fairs worth it? Participating in art fairs is a relatively new experience for me. If I’m honest it took me a while to get my head around doing one as I’m an artist more used to showing with galleries where they do the marketing, selling etc. I’ve just been accepted once again to exhibit at The Other Art Fair in London. With experience behind me now of having exhibited at a couple of art fairs, I feel like I’ve found a sweet spot for my work at art fairs and here’s why.

1. Exposure: 

I have found that participating in an art fair provides me with a huge opportunity to showcase my work directly in front of a large audience, including art collectors, gallery owners, and art enthusiasts. This exposure has led to increased visibility as I have built great relationships with my buyers when they meet me on my stand and get to know the artwork as well as me.

2. Networking: 

Personally, I’m not a fan of the term networking and prefer to think of it as getting on people’s radars! Art fairs certainly allow for this as I not only meet potential buyers but also industry professionals, including gallery owners, curators, and fellow artists. Art fairs have given me a space to connect with these individuals, which has already led to future opportunities. I particularly enjoyed telling people about my art studio at Delta House Studios and that we have open studio events twice a year.

are art fairs worth it?
Suspension 1, 2023, oil paint and oil bar on charcoal, 40x50cm

3. Sales: 

I have not only built good connections at art fairs but I’ve also made sales. By bypassing the traditional gallery system, I’ve had more control over pricing and have made higher profits without having to pay large commission fees to a gallery 

4. Market Research: 

Again, not a term I’m comfortable with however I have found that doing an art fair has helped me clarify my demographic and gauge response to my work. This direct interaction with potential buyers and art enthusiasts has provided valuable feedback for me and helped me in many ways such as understanding pricing trends, and how people are buying art.

are art fairs worth it

Yellow Electric, 2023, oil paint, oil bar and charcoal on paper (framed), 43×43

5. Publicity: 

If you want to sell you need publicity and a good art fair will strategically provide this. I have found that even having the association with exhibiting at a particular art fair has generated further interest in my work which has helped build my reputation. 

6. Inspiration and Motivation: 

Without a doubt, immersing oneself in an art fair environment is inspiring and motivating. Seeing the work of other artists, engaging in conversations about art, and witnessing how other artists are selling their work has taught me a lot. 

are art fairs worth it?

Trifolium, 2022, oil paint & oil bar on canvas, 80x80cm

Ultimately, whether art fairs are worth it depends on the goals and circumstances of the artist. I would highly advise taking time to research and carefully consider a specific art fair and its reputation before deciding to apply.

The art fair market is saturated and the standards vary a lot. Art fairs offer a wide range of artwork in one location, allowing buyers to browse and compare different artists and styles. I think it’s important to be aware of the type of work being selected for specific art fairs and the standard of artists participating.

Overall, are art fairs worth it? Yes! For me participating in art fairs has provided numerous benefits including exposure, networking opportunities, sales potential, market research, publicity, inspiration, feedback and critique. My next art fair will be at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch 12-15 October with The Other Art Fair, maybe I’ll see you there!

Aisling Drennan is an award-winning abstract artist with a London, UK-based art studio.

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