Caldwell Gallery Hudson

Art Fairs: The Good and the Bad

Our “home away from home” BIFAS 2011

Trade shows or “Art Fairs” as they are known in our business, are exciting to participate in as exhibitors. Regardless of what you call them, they offer exceptional client networking, buying, and selling opportunities. They are also somewhat royal pains in the verso in terms of the extensive prep, set up, and aftermath required. We just returned from the Boston International Fine Arts Show, and now that the dust has settled,  have a few observations to share.

First let’s talk about the good parts. We have the opportunity to meet old friends and clients, as well as make new ones. We get to study human behavior, and Art shows offer up a smorgasbord of wonders along these lines. And, hopefully, we get to sell some art – finding new appreciative homes and custodians for the works we have grown to love and which have enhanced our lives. The bad part are the “ings”. Prepping, packing, traveling to, setting up, breaking down, returning from, and putting it all away. Of course standing for 9 or 10 hours a day, with only a thin disposable carpet separating your shoe bottoms from the cold non-forgiving concrete is another one of the not-so-fun parts. Thank goodness Boston is full of great places to run.

BIFAS is held at the historic Cyclorama in Boston’s South End neighborhood the weekend before Thanksgiving. The building oozes with history and is just a nifty, nifty place. The crowds were light, but the quality of the art viewer was high – educated, interested, and appreciative art lovers. Best of all this year was I did not once hear a couple suggest “our grandchild could paint that” when viewing an abstract painting.

Of all the comments and questions I’ve heard in nearly 25 years of being at art fairs the “my _____ could paint that” is my least favorite. I was brought that if you can’t say something nice you don’t say anything, even though my internal dialog goes something like this whenever I hear that particular comment:

“Yeah, sure, your grandchild or a cat could do that. Um, after about 10 years of training in classical arts – until they can draw the heck out of an apple – and then another 10 as a professional artist executing representational art.  And when, finally, after being inspired somewhere along the way by abstract art, they put in another 5 or 10 years working in that style – struggling, perfecting, tinkering – until, presto bingo – they could paint the work on the wall of our booth that you just suggested your grandchild or a monkey could paint.”

I just stand there, smiling and rocking from side to side on the thin carpet.

Adding up the fact no one uttered my least favorite phrase with the opportunity to see old friends and eat some fantastic meals, plus the opportunity to pop over to the Art of the Americas Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (it’s a short cab ride away) this was a great art fair. We’ll be back in 2012, and maybe have a few elephant paintings available to see how they do against those so-called abstract artists.

Here’s one of those abstract works “our grandchild could paint”