I recently set up my first pop-up gallery over Memorial Day Weekend at the Moab Arts Festival. I have set up booths in the past where I was selling prints out of a crate, but this was the first time I had a physical gallery space that people could walk through and view large pieces. It was an interesting experience, to say the least.
I had sixteen different images printed on metal, and those images dominated my booth space. Four images were standard poster size at 24”x36”, and twelve were slightly smaller at 16”x24”. The overall feel was a bit surreal: it was a powerful experience for me to see a physical representation of the last two years of my life. (The layout can be seen on my Instagram profile, @chrisalanmonte, under the pinned stories.) I positioned the larger prints towards the front, which helped draw people into the gallery space. I was extremely grateful for the amount of foot traffic that my pop-up gallery received, and for all the kind words that were said about my work. I was also blown away by the number of business cards that I handed out, which was something I didn’t have the first time I participated in an art fair.
As much as I tried to temper my expectations, I may have gone into the weekend overly optimistic. Perhaps it was the demographics of the venue, but it seemed that most people were interested in purchasing smaller items. While the pop-up gallery was certainly impressive, I may have hamstrung myself in that regard. I had multiple groups ask about smaller pieces, and then flat out tell me that they weren’t interested in paper prints of any size after seeing the metal ones. I can’t blame them.
Perhaps the stereotypes about artists being lousy salesmen are true, but it was an incredible learning opportunity. By sheer luck, I was neighbors with Erica Collins (https://www.ericacollinsartist.com/) and was able to pick her brain a little each day. After seeing the booth that she put together, it was clear that she had been working at art fairs for a very long time. One thing that jumped out at me was the variety of her inventory. It seems like each time I participate in an art event, I do something a little bit different, and then have leftovers for the next event. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the most important thing that I learned is that it’s incredibly important to stick with it, and your inventory will slowly expand over time.