Art Fair Survey Results; Art Heists; An Ode to Art Supplies

08/18/2011 09:20 am ET | Updated Oct 18, 2011

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Art Fairs: Love Them or Hate Them? survey. 81 percent of the respondents identified themselves as artists; many wearing more than one art-related hat. Only one respondent claimed to know nothing about art.

I asked respondents to rank how they felt about different kinds of art venues on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being "Hate them," 4 being "Love them." As you can see from the figures below, "Museums and Not-for-Profits" came in the highest, with an overall ranking of 3.53. "International Art Fairs" didn't do nearly as well, coming in second to the last in popularity with an overall ranking of 2.21. The least popular choice was "Internet Shows and Fairs" which had a ranking of 1.77

3.53 Museums & Not-for-Profits
3.31 Alternative Spaces
2.91 Commercial Galleries
2.44 Pop-up Shows and Fairs
2.26 Auctions
2.21 International Art Fairs
1.77 Internet Shows and Fairs

When I asked if a small gallery like Offramp Gallery should participate in international art fairs, 62.5 percent picked the common sense answer "Try one and see how it goes." Only 8.9 percent chose "Go for it," with 28.6 percent telling me to "Stay home."

When I asked for comments, I got some great advice, warnings, opinions and everything in between. One respondent who identified him/herself as an Art Dealer/Gallerist lamented:

"I can not afford to do the fairs. They are destroying my business, but I would participate if I had the money."

Another Art Dealer/ Gallerist was more enthusiastic:

I was the co-director of a fair and had a booth as a result. It was a fantastic, exhausting experience and I added 500 folks to my mailing list. It's not for everybody; but is it is an important model. Don't expect big sales immediately.

And then there was this from an artist:

Since much art has become a commodity, such as cars, fur coats and jewelry, and art fair is the right place for it. It doesn't deserve any better. A fine gallery showing great works shouldn't resort to join the trash.

A respondent who identified him/herself as an Art Buyer gave the following advice:

"I think you should investigate the return on your investment before plunging in. Why go if these events are not profitable?"

That last bit of advice goes straight to the heart of my dilemma. Are there figures available for average ROI (return on investment) for Art Fairs? I haven't been able to find any. What about the non-sales advantages like exposure and building the gallery's reputation and email list? How do you measure the more intangible returns?

Thanks again for your help. You've given me a lot to chew on! I don't see any major fairs in the budget for Offramp this year, but I'll keep you posted.

Click here to see the survey results

Art Heists

You may have heard about this weekend's heist of a Rembrandt drawing valued at $250,000 from a hotel in the Los Angeles area. You can read about it here and here. Thieves, probably working in tandem, distracted the curator and simply took the drawing off the easel where it was being displayed. Easy work if you can get it. Fencing it is another matter.

According to author Ulrich Boser's 2009 bestseller, The Gardner Heist, famous stolen paintings are almost impossible to sell. Instead they are used as a type of underworld cash or bond, traded for guns, drugs or jewels.

The Gardner Heist is a fascinating true-crime whodunit about the largest art heist in history is a wild ride through the underbelly of the art world -- a dangerous place described by experts as the "Lost Museum" where enough stolen artworks exist to make the "Louvre seem like a small-town art gallery in comparison."

Click here to read my review of The Gardner Heist, first published in February.

Update: According to Forbes, the stolen Rembrandt has been recovered in a church in Encino, CA after an anonymous tip. Click here to read the story.

Ode to Art Supplies

Even though I haven't been a practicing artist for a long time, my pulse still quickens when I walk into an art supply store or get the Utrect catalog in the mail. Remember the excitement of getting that first box of 64 Crayola crayons? Or the first set of colored pencils in the box that stood up like an easel? Or sketchbooks, brushes, paint, ink, linoleum cutters, markers, vine charcoal, pastels (oh, the pastels -- so yummy!), damar varnish, turpentine, clay, palette knives, pristine white stretched canvases, and on and on and on?

I've put together a series of videos showing how some of these art supplies are made. Seeing the raw materials -- mounds of powdered pigments, vats of gooey bright yellow, cotton rag chopped and beaten to a pulp to make paper -- is as exciting to me as walking into Pearl or Blick. Enjoy!

(Ok, technically not art supplies, but too yummy not to post)