Superfine Art Fair
Has anyone worked with Superfine Art Fair before? Or know anything about the success of the fair? Any information would be appreciated!
I’ve worked with SuperFine once in DC and have decided to join them in NY this Spring. Superfine is a buttoned up operation and they put together a classy show. That’s important to me.
I don’t believe you should go into these fairs expecting to make tons of sales. It’s about getting your art out on a wall and networking…marketing. If the sales come awesome.
I’ve done about 10 fairs over the past 2 years and I’ve had shows where I sell great and others where I don’t. But I always make good contacts and post show sales.
That being said, to make great contacts the show needs to get the right people in the door. And more importantly, the kind of crowd that might like my art. Some fairs will literally stand on a corner handing out free passes to anybody to fill a space. Some fairs get people in the door with lures of performances, etc, which can be cool, but that can’t be the reason why someone came to the show. If your art isn’t appealing to the crowd being pulled in, you won’t sell. So check out the shows marketing efforts and plan carefully. For example, my work seems to sell well in NY, Southern CA, and Southern Fl. That’s where I attend shows. I do better in smaller shows because I like to spend time talking with people and making a connection. For me the big shows are overwhelming (even thought I tend to sell a lot at big shows…for me the connections are just as important).
To the point, each show is different. I’d say you need to spend time figuring out where your buying crowd is NY, CA, Miami, etc. and find the fair in that area that curators well to your style. To say one fair is good and one isn’t is like comparing apples to oranges.
Sorry, you have to do your homework.
Great comment! We just exhibited at ArtExpo NY and made great contacts with new gallery/interior designer representation possibilities and had a wonderful time networking with other artists but only had one sale. Fortunately, we weren’t expecting many sales so for us, the event was a success. BUT, it was very expensive. We are now going to spend the next 6-12 months leveraging the contacts we made, so it will be a long time before we really can say for sure what kind of return on investment we got. I think you really need to get clear with yourself beforehand as to what you hope to get out of specific show. I will say one thing about the show itself which disappointed me is that they did not do nearly the pre-show promotion of our art that we had been told would be done despite our having submitted everything they asked for on time. Fortunately, we did a good deal of promotion ourselves but perhaps not as much on things like Facebook and Instagram as we would have had we known ahead of time that they weren’t going to do much.
SUPERFINE MIAMI ART FAIR
The Superfine guys who run the art fair mean well but have trouble playing with the big boys. Their focus is on making money for themselves rather than you selling your art. They have a great social media presence but it seems to be limited to a small audience of LGBTQ fans and followers. They rely too heavily on their online promotions to generate traffic with no ground game. That is a huge problem where there are many art fairs competing for visitors such as Art Basel in Miami.
My experience in Miami:
The show is tightly curated leading to a consistent experience.
Individual artists can participate without a gallery representative.
Small booths are available to keep the cost managable.
Excellent location in the middle of all the action.
In booth signage and art tags provided for consistency.
Great art and artists participating.
Clean and adequate restrooms.
The curatorial requirements were heavy at the last minute.
Logistics for move in and out were difficult especially with no loading areas or vehicle access except for street parking.
The floorplan was very tight and close quarters.
Lighting was severely lacking. Lights could not be placed to avoid harsh reflections.
Climate control was impossible with hot and cold spots.
Traffic was nil. The fair was mostly empty for days and only modest traffic during peak times.
The outdoor signage was poor and people had a difficult time finding the fair.
The operators were unwilling to make adjustments to their policies to generate traffic once it became clear their plan was failing.
There was no visible promotion or advertising within a half mile of the event and no street presence directing people in the door.
Street presence was confusing because the venue was also selling tickets for city tours.
Exhibitors were limited to 20 free passes for promoting the event virtually eliminating an audience of prequalified buyers.
The operators were most concerned about selling tickets once the wall space was sold out.
Most artists made no sales.
I will not participate next year.
First of all, I want to thank you for your feedback. Whether or not it’s pleasant to hear, it’s feedback that helps all of us grow as art businesses in what can sometimes be a confusing market. I also wanted to thank you for noting the positives of your experience, these are all hallmarks of the Superfine! platform and we did go to great lengths to secure what we felt was the best possible location for our exhibitors during Miami Art Week. That said, I also did want to respond to a few of your points here.
On Curatorial Requirements
Yes, this part can be tough for some participants and can be a qualifier/disqualifier of who reaps the rewards of Superfine! fairs. The ultimate aim is always better user (visitor) experience, and thus higher sales. However, it’s important to take into account our direct clients: the galleries and artists who spend good money to show with us. We do our best to make the process as easy and streamlined as possible, from providing strategic curatorial plans, to regular emails about our guidelines, and dedicating a team member solely to communicating with exhibitors about the process (new to 2019.) However, we always try to make the process easier and will continue to do so.
An unfortunate reality of Miami Art Week on Miami Beach. I’m happy to share photos of the load-ins of other fairs that actually sat on the sand – $20,000 paintings leaning on a park bench wasn’t a pretty sight. Everyone does what they can to best take advantage of the location.
On Site Conditions
We made a decision to opt for a small, strategically located venue for Miami 2018 at 4,000 square feet. This information was shared freely leading up to the fair, the venue was never misrepresented. Our other fairs range from 9,000-22,000 square feet. Miami Art Week is a complicated time where there is a great deal of demand to exhibit, but a very limited supply of venues (barring tents which drive costs north of $1 million. Those costs are quickly passed on to exhibitors. That said, our experience following Miami 2018 was that we prefer our other cities and other fairs and have chosen to focus on them moving forward along with further expansion on the west and east coasts, while limiting our Miami presence.
Yes, we would have preferred higher traffic. That said, we did register nearly 2,000 check-ins from both paid and complimentary tickets for this fair. While not the goal we were shooting for, it is still a number we’re happy with and the media around the fair was strong as well. It can be very difficult for artists and galleries themselves to generate attendance in the thousands and impressions in the millions, yet that is something available to Superfine! exhibitors. Complimentary tickets are actually much to blame for traffic fluctuations during Miami Art Week – there is an encouragement to give them out and that we did: every major Miami museum received passes and Superfine! was featured on all of their newsletters, websites, and member programs. Ditto for high-end condominiums, rental buildings, social groups, and so on. Our total count of “RSVPs” – those who’d entered their information for a ticket online – was 6,000. As you can see, traffic was a third of that. That differs greatly from a market like DC, for example, where of 4,000 paid tickets, 99% actually attended the fair. Which brings me to my next point…
On Tickets vs Comp Passes
With the 20 passes given to exhibitors, we go to great pains to illustrate exactly what type of pre-qualified buyers and potential collectors they should invite. As a note, not one exhibitor in Miami reached the limit of 20 passes given out. So had the number we gave out been greater (we always accommodate requests when codes have been maxed out), this would not have made an impact. Additionally: through 7 successful fairs we’ve found that what actually pre-qualifies a buyer is their willingness to actually purchase a ticket to an event, versus receiving one complimentary through various means. Of course, there are ways to be strategic with complimentary passes – some of which I’ve illustrated above – but one need only visit the “VIP” opening at certain fairs, then clock the sales results, to realize that a free ticket does not necessarily a collector make.
On Street Promotion
True, we don’t do street flyers. It lessens the value of the fair and is illegal in Miami Beach. The fines are large, and it reflects poorly on a partner of the city. However, I’m again happy to send photos of physical branding at 12 parking garage locations strategically located across Miami Beach. Many of these signs are still up, and we branded the garage nearest Art Basel Miami Beach as well.
On Selling Tickets
Selling entry tickets is the status quo for art fairs, museums, and exhibitions, barring the scenarios outlined above. For one, it does pre-qualify buyers. We also granted complimentary access to VIP card holders from all the other major fairs, along with Bass members, PAMM members, and Sotheby’s preferred members. Due to a labor concern, my core team and I were often at the ticket desk overseeing operations and I did not see one instance where a person who didn’t just seem like a beach-goer turned away due to the cost of a ticket (a very low $10) or not having a means of gaining complimentary access. Ticket sales are a very, very small percentage of our revenue but are again industry standard for these types of events.
Sam, it is impossible to know exactly what the market will do at a given time. I am sorry you did not see stronger results. That said, with our co-experience in Miami I do have some notes for you:
You mention social media game versus ground game in your post. Your work, along with the work of 3-4 other artists, organically received a great deal of traction leading up to the fair. This is the stuff money can’t buy: publications and media channels featuring work as highlights of a major art week in an important international city. Of those other artists, two completely sold out their booths and one did extremely well and gained numerous leads that have since borne fruit. One reason your work did not perform as well as we might have hoped is because in person it does not read as well in person as it does online. Your photography is interesting, but mounting on aluminum is growing more and more passé with each year and those works aren’t attracting the prices they once did. I had this conversation recently with a well-known photography dealer who sells hundreds of thousands of dollars in photos each year, and he agreed that the moment for this work has passed and collectors do not see value in it. People are searching for authenticity, and a well framed photo print performs better 9 times out of 10 versus what is ultimately more of an art-related object versus a work of art. The photo itself may be the same, but the first reads authentic and the second more artificial. Granted, there are specific scenarios and audiences where this is not the case, but it is my observation in general. If you do choose to continue this format, I encourage you to seek avenues that fit more directly with your preferred style.
This is not an indictment of you or your work in any way but rather a business owner to business owner recommendation to consider the format of the work you show as a way of both lowering the cost to yourself (I know those prints are very expensive) and also increasing the value to a potential collector. I do hope you find the market for your work, and wish you the best, but I do agree that it likely isn’t Superfine! fairs or our audience.
Thank you again, Sam, and all our best!
Alex + the Superfine! team
I can think of Fridge and SpringBreak as the only two fairs that both personally and professionally have attended, loved and where the exhibitors did not pay. The participants at both fairs Fridge during Frieze Week and SpringBreak during Armory some whom I know were overjoyed with their experience. I did visit superfine and it reminded me of this fair during A.B.M.B. it is spectrum maybe… It reminded me of a small town outdoor artist fair without the Joy.
Thank you for mentioning Fridge Art Fair! I am an artist and all involved are a team. It is comments such as yours that motivate me and all involved in the constant learning experience that is life and hence art that motivates me to keep going! Art is commerce yet more importantly to me and those at Fridge it is life. Fridge really is a team effort and I am grateful I have been able to support through personal art sales and have been blessed with donations to keep fridge art fair open and free or close to it for participants in the Fridge experiment! As long as their is joy and love money and much more come!!! thank you!!! maybe Fridge will continue:). Thank you so much!!! Love and light!!!
I signed on with one of those who bought a booth last year during the NYC Fringe Fest. I received a free pass. The work in the other booths in general was mostly mediocre with a few bright spots. The people who came were cool, but i didn’t see much in the way of sales. Good though for making contacts.