Last weekend in Sydney saw the annual event known as The Other Art Fair presented by Saatchi Art, a worldwide expo giving a platform to emerging and independent artists. When I began creating collages 2 years ago, I visited TOAF as a an attendee and it definitely struck me as something I’d like to try as both a showcase for my collages, and as a stepping stone into artistic circles beyond the weekend markets I’d been selling my work at.
For this event, I was sharing a space and working alongside Chad Davis, director of Musicland who have been supplying TOAF with entertainment in the form of DJs and roving entertainers etc for several years now. I even did a stint of DJing there myself a few years back so I was familiar with the event, albiet from a hired enterainer’s viewpoint. Here are my thoughts and observations for anybody considering applying to feature their work at this event in the future.
I’d like to start by outlining my process leading up to the fair. This included finding out the exact measurements of the wall space I’d be working with. I then used Photoshop to make a scale mock up of the area so that I could help myself to visualise the positioning of my work as it would appear on the walls. I photographed each piece of artwork and using the same scale I’d created for the wall space, I sized the images to coincide with the actual dimensions. This came in handy not only for my own layout, but also for the art installer I hired to help me out on the day.
If you’re new to the gallery display game like I am, hiring somebody to do the hard yards when it comes to measuring and hanging is something I’d highly recommend. It took a lot of the stress out of the day and allowed me time to take care of other aesthetic/cosmetic booth set ups before the show opened later that evening. It’s rather inexpensive considering the logistical nightmare it might have been working to a deadline.
Once set up, it was time to go home, shower and get ready for opening night. The opening night of any event is usually quite buzzing and exciting. This was no exception. However the weather gods were not being kind that evening (this was the case for most of the 4 days) and I did wonder if it had any bearing on the number of attendees, but having nothing to compare it to, I couldn’t be sure.
For me, opening night was an opportunity to flex my art muscle and greet the public, discuss my work and explain my process. I feel it’s important not to over prepare for this, but be confident in your work, be ready to discuss any themes or ideas, ask questions as well as answer them and expect the unexpected!
The general public are exactly that - general.
You meet a wide, wide cross section of people at a show such as this and you’ll experience a gamut of emotions throughout. I had many encouraging and gushing comments about my work, so learn how to take a compliment! I also had some decidedly odd encounters with people who probably have that effect on others no matter where they go, leaving me bemused to say the least. Seeing kids reacting to my work was a real treat and I got many of them involved with the live collage I was creating over the 4 days.
Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention that a big goal at TOAF is to sell your work, and I was fortunate enough to see my creations go home with some really lovely, appreciative people. It’s a great feeling when that happens and makes all the effort leading up to the event worthwhile. I must stress that like any event, the costs x expectations x reality of selling your work may not always balance out.
Getting back to the amount of big dollar sales to expect - in a word, don’t. That’s not to say you won’t sell your art, but I know I can’t afford any original large scale work at present, and depending on your situation, chances are neither can you! The Other Art Fair does offer Art Money, a payment installment initiative that you can nominate to offer potential customers. I chose not to use that option, and the only time I was asked if I offered it, the client ended up paying in full anyway. One thing I will advise you do is have cheaper options in the form of prints of your work. I only took my prints along on day 4 and I really regret not having them there as an option from the start. As my work often appeals to a younger demographic, they probably would have liked a more affordable option. Lesson learned.
All in all I had a fantastic 4 days. It was long and tiring but the staff in Sydney lead by Zoe Paulsen were unflappable and so accommodating. When you consider that they had to contend with the needs and egos of 120 artists, it’s a pretty impressive feat to behold. I would attend it again if given the opportunity and can recommend it as something artists of all disciplines look into if you are considering elevating your work into a wider realm.
One last piece of advice - the following items are going to come in handy.
A portable fan: I took two! Depending on the size of the space you’re in, the airflow in the venue might not lend itself to a comfortable situation. My time at Technology Park was made infinitely more enjoyable with some well directed air. Water and snacks - sounds like a no-brainer right? Keep hydrated and although the food on offer was tasty and fresh, over the 4 days you might want a bit of variation (and fibre!). Stationary such as pens, double sided mount tape, an eraser for the walls - stuff you might think you require depending on the form your art takes. Lots of business cards,a smile and a good attitude will always come in handy as well.
Big big thanks to Chad from Musicland, Justin Sommer from Art Essentials for the excellent framing job and friendly service and to Stephen Gray from About Picture Hanging for the install. as well as all the staff and artists I met at The Other Art Fair - you were all so wonderful.