Artists take over the art fair model and sell directly

Gina Fairley

The Other Art Fair has proven that artists can sell their own work successfully, and Melbourne puts the model to test this weekend at The Other Art Fair.
Artists take over the art fair model and sell directly

Image courtesy The Other Art Fair

First successful in London, Bristol, then Sydney and now Melbourne this weekend (4 - 7 May), The Other Art Fair (TOAF) offers artists the opportunity to sell their work directly to collectors and the public.

It is an original model that adds to the mix of art fairs internationally and provides an increasingly successful opportunity for artists to engage with buyers and collectors.

For the first time the stand-alone fair, TOAF Melbourne will be held 4 – 7 May at The Facility in Kensington – a dynamic warehouse space that is the perfect fit for TOAF with its creative pulse.

View the line of line up artists for the Melbourne fair.

The first 50 ArtsHub readers to register will receive a free ticket to the Opening Night. Promo Code: ARTSHUB

At TOAF artists sell their work directly, but the absence of galleries as exhibitors does not mean gallerists don’t matter. The claim that the traditional gallery system is dead in the wake of the growing number of fairs is widespread. But TOAF Director Zoe Paulsen believes galleries remain crucial in keeping that gallery system fed from the grassroots up.

‘We have learnt over the last couple of years that gallery representation is still really important for artists, but it is getting harder and harder for them to have that gallery visibility. As an artist-focused fair, it is really important that we get those gallerists along, and maintain a relationship with them and expose a new crop of talent,’ said Paulsen.

‘The fair is just a different way of getting that exposure, and it is how the world is changing especially with social media and engagement-driven audiences.’

She reminded that art comes in all forms, and the Melbourne fair will also include live performances, DJs and a kids corner, to stimulate creativity at every level and keep the tone fun.

At the last edition of the fair held in Sydney, 15 artists’ booths sold out and many artists made contacts which led to solo shows or residencies. More than 10,000 people went through the fair in four days.

You can still be part of the next edition in Sydney. TOFA will return in September for its third edition.

Apply to participate in The Other Art Fair, Sydney.

‘Without a doubt, it opens up opportunities for artists,’ said Paulsen. ‘That concentration of people seeing your work is why the art fair model is so attractive to artists.’

She said sales were increasing steadily but that is only one measure of success. ‘What is really great is that we have so many repeat artists applying – that says to me that the model is working for them.’

The stand-alone fair will be presented in Melbourne for the first time this May.

The Other Art Fair. April 2015 from Almond Tree Productions on Vimeo.

Learning to sell, learning to buy

For many artists actively selling their own work is a new and daunting idea but the professional development and networks that the opportunity it offers are a great career catalyst.

On the other side of the ledger, the fair offers potential buyers unencumbered access to artists. As a visitor to TOAF, you don’t have to know the right questions to ask. The casual intimacy of the fair is designed to allow conversations with artists to happen very naturally.

Paulsen said that the average price range of artworks offered is also very comfortable for most and not too intimidating for those new collectors to the fair environment. ‘There are prints from $100 to works selling around $10,000, with the majority sitting at the $1,500 to $3,500 mark.

She continued: ‘We’ve announced our guest artist for Melbourne, Adbul Abdullah. He is creating limited edition prints exclusively for TOAF and will be selling them for just $100. Its a fantastic opportunity to add Abdul’s work to your collection.’ 

Or just sign up and you can be in the running to win one.

Limited edition print Enjoy your day by Adbul Abdullah; courtesy the artist

‘Buying art at any price is all about having a connection with the work. People surprise themselves looking at the art in this different environment, and their perceptions about artists are also diffused. It becomes a lot about how they interact and engage, and that energy is translated to the aisles of the fair. It’s incredibly buzzy.’

Paulsen is excited to be bringing the fair to Melbourne, confident that the Melbourne public is hungry for a new way of engaging with art.  ‘Because of the climate, Melbourne audiences are more familiar with going to galleries. I think the fair will translate well with that history, but also taps into the idea that people want to have their own experiences – to have another cool platform to meet artists in a more tangible way.’

Image courtesy The Other Art Fair

Calling artists and collectors

Artists selected for the Melbourne edition will be announced in April. The fair will profile about 100 artists working in different styles and mediums across individual booths.

Diversity has become a signature of The Other Art Fair, allowing entry point collecting across all media.

‘So many artists never meet their buyers. We immediately think of the public first – that they gain this insight by meeting the artist – but it is also an incredible advantage for an artist to know what the public thinks of their work,’ said Paulsen.

The booth presentation and personal branding is entirely up to the artist. Paulsen says the fair is a model that works.

‘Every edition is completely different to the one that has just been due to the mix of artists selected. That keeps it fresh.

‘This is a great medium for artists to build on their profile that is outside pop-up group exhibitions or small ARI (artist run initiatives) shows, and that interaction with potential collectors is a great way to build a network of support.’

TOAF has an open call for applications but participants are selected by committee. Paulsen described this year’s Melbourne selectors as a “killer professional committee”:  internationally-renowned artist Patricia Piccinini, Director of Mossgreen Gallery Lisa Fehily, artist Kathy Temin, collector and art advocate Terry Wu and Senior curator at ACCA, Annika Kristensen.

Their expertise is an endorsement which ensures the work selected will be of the highest calibre.

Paulsen added that participation in TOAF can move an artist to a new level, providing a step-up in exposure that translates into sales.

And for the art visitor, what greater privilege is there than he opportunity to talk to an artist about their work?  The true joy of The Other Art Fair is that this is new territory for everyone – artist, audiences and aficionados.

The Other Art Fair

Melbourne: 4 – 7 May at The Facility in Kensington. Ticket and venue details.

Book your Opening Night Tickets.

Sydney edition of TOAF will be held in September. Artist applications are now open and close the end of May.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.