Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Short Takes: Art Fair Survey, James Ensor, Chinese Mask Changing, and More

Survey: To Fair or Not to Fair?

As the director of a commercial art gallery, I was slightly disturbed by this article on The Art Newspaper's website last week: Gallery System is Structurally Weak. According to the article: "a new report by the non-profit dealers’ federation Cinoa finds that fair-led and online business is taking over as the main source of revenue. . . . Gallery visits are declining as the art market expands to new international centres served better by art fairs or electronic media."

And that's where my ideals come crashing headlong into economic reality. If there's one thing I've learned in the three years since I opened Offramp Gallery, it's that selling art is not easy. The idea of taking our show on the road to a larger audience by participating in art fairs is very tempting, even though I find attending the fairs a sterile and depressing experience. (One artist told me that the only time she ever stopped off at a bar by herself on the way home from anything was after visiting an art fair at the LA Convention Center.)

Using the same branding/marketing models for art that we use for cars, appliances and pharmaceuticals really bothers me. Isn't art supposed to operate on a higher plane and be the antithesis of, say, a gun show? Commodification of art is certainly not a new topic for debate, but I think it's as relevant now as it has ever been.

Participation in the fairs is also very expensive. I looked at the costs of booths at three of the upcoming fairs in LA. The least expensive was a 144 sq. ft. booth for $5,500, the most expensive, a 940 sq. ft. booth for $37,600. If you need more space, you are encouraged to inquire.

That's a lot of money for a small gallery like Offramp to risk in these volatile economic times. So -- I'd like to know how you feel about art fairs. Love them? Hate them? If you're a dealer or a gallerist, I'd love to hear your experiences and welcome your advice -- is it worth the risk? Should I dive in or stay away?

I've put together a short survey to get your feedback. Thank you in advance for participating. I will share the results with you soon.

Click here to take survey

James Ensor

I wanted to share this deliciously dark YouTube video which was filmed in Belgian painter James Ensor's (1860-1949) house in Ostend and set to the music of Siouxsie Sioux.

Chinese Mask Changing

Speaking of masks, my YouTube meanderings led me to discover this video about the 300-year-old tradition of mask changing performed in Chinese Sichuan opera.

Face Painting

On a lighter face-changing note, I found this video, the "Amazing Face Paint Art of James Kuhn." I love the pineapple guy at 0:34, the Lichtenstein lady at 1:08 and the guy eating the hot dog at 2:57.

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

Lisa Adams: Born This Way
September 11 - October 9, 2011
Opening Reception, Sunday, September 11, 2-5pm
Artist's Talk, Vicissitude of Circumstance Book Signing & Closing Reception, Sunday, October 9, 2-5pm


  1. This was a wonderful blog post Jane. I enjoyed the face paintings of Kuhn especially. I've been to a number of art fairs in my area here in Cleveland (Boston Mills, etc.) attending for the most part but also showing in some not as popular. I prefer to gallery hop & stumble upon someone rather than be in the hot sun under a tent visiting or working. Too many times it can be the same venue with the same Artist's year after year. In setting up for shows at some of these fairs I personally never found them to be anything more than a huge expense and more trouble then there work and more effective at drawing business my way. That is my own personal perception of course.

  2. Hi Jane - always enjoy your posts. I did Art Fairs for many years - made a living and learned a lot but it was exhausting. You get so tired you can't think, let alone be creative or enjoy life and relationships suffered. It was also demeaning to be called a 'vendor' or even 'clerk'. Fortunately, I've been able to shift over to internet sales by learning SEO, webmaster tools, etc. It's hard to be an artist in this country. My wife runs our gallery - the last three years have been very tough for gallery sales. I think the secret to sales is to do in-home and in-business art consulting. I've noticed our sales really drop off in the summer, when the buying public is scouting out art fairs. Keep up the good work.

  3. Hi! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Chinese art. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about Chinese art. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. You also have a very good choice of flowers and a very good flower arrangements. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well.
    Based on one of the articles that I have read regarding this topic, artists from the Han (202 BC) to the Tang (618–906) dynasties mainly painted the human figure. Much of what is known of early Chinese figure painting comes from burial sites, where paintings were preserved on silk banners, lacquered objects, and tomb walls. Many early tomb paintings were meant to protect the dead or help their souls get to paradise. Others illustrated the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, or showed scenes of daily life.
    Chinese Art of Qi Bashi from Wen Tsan Yu Collection Brings $2.6 Million Dollars to Break All Records at Kaminski Auctions March Fine Asian Art and Antiques Auction.

    Chinese art Boston

  4. I make $20 for each 20 minute survey!

    Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying me for. They need to know what their customer base needs and wants. So big companies pay millions of dollars per month to the average person. In return, the average person, like myself, fills out surveys and gives them their opinion.