I’ve learnt over the years to PLAN AHEAD when it comes to art fairs. If you turn up with the aim of just wandering around, you’ll miss out on key aspects – the fairs tend to be so large and pretty exhausting, so by having a proper schedule you can make sure you tick off your must-sees first.
I’ve put together my top tips on how to prepare and plan to get the most out of visiting an art fair:
Art Fairs are huge – stand upon stand, aisle upon aisle of art and people to chat to. Make sure you’ve eaten well (most fairs have excellent cafes and restaurants – although for some you need to make reservations for lunch and dinner), wear comfortable shoes (I still don’t understand it when I see women gliding around in high heels, my feet ACHE after a day at an art fair), clothes you can layer (sometimes they whack the heating up, other times its off completely), check your coat and bag in on arrival as they’ll soon weigh a ton, plus you’ll need all your strength to carry all the books/ magazines/ leaflets you gather as you go around.
Also remember your back up or phone charger so you can top up somewhere when you stop for lunch/ coffee. My phone always runs out of power half way round!
STUDY THE PROGRAMME
Its no longer just a question of booking a ticket and turning up, as these days fairs always have a full programme of talks, tours and special projects, many of which you need to book for. Check out the fair’s website and social media in advance to discover the highlights and book a place where needed. Most fairs offer substantial talks programmes for all levels of art interest. Some are aimed at artists and art professionals, some at collectors. There’s normally a daily tour with specialists too.
TRY TO BE EARLY
If you can, get to the fair the minute it opens. Fairs tend to be busiest in the afternoons and it can be hard to physically see the work, let alone talk to the gallery to find out more about the work.
When you arrive, grab a floor plan so you can map out your route. I tend to arrive as it opens and head straight for a coffee whilst I highlight all the galleries and projects I want to see.
MAKE A RECORD OF ART YOU LIKE
As I go round the fair, I pick up information on the artists and work I like, making a note of the gallery and taking a photo of both the work and the info next to it.
IF YOU’VE FOUND A WORK YOU LIKE
Don’t feel pressurised to make a decision on buying work you like – galleries always like to make sales at the fair, but I prefer to go away and think things through rather than make a sudden decision. Often a gallery will hold a work for you for an agreed time period and give you first refusal. Don’t be afraid to raise the question of a discount too. They can always say no!
Some galleries participate in the Own Art Scheme 0% finance scheme or can offer individual payment plans.
Don’t forget to find out if the work is being sold framed (and if it has UV protective glazing if relevant) and if there is a delivery cost. Ask if the gallery can recommend someone to install the work for you or give you advice on how to hang it. Also don’t forget to add the work to your home insurance once you’ve bought it.