Get Noticed, Get Covered: How to Attract Writers at Art Fairs
Securing press coverage is a key aspect of any fair experience for galleries or independent artists, but navigating how to connect with writers and journalists can often seem intimidating. How do you know if writers will want to pick up your story? Where do you even start? We’ve got some simple tips to lock down coverage; from networking to storytelling, this list will help seasoned pros and green galleries alike ramp up their presentation to attract writers and build long-term relationships.
Know what’s newsworthy about your booth.
Writers and journalists are always on the lookout for a good story, but fairs can be the noisiest time of year for breaking news – having a seductive pitch ready to go automatically provides a leg up when it comes to catching our attention. Test your pitch before the fair – does the hook catch anything? So many times I’ve been at fairs where a sales rep or gallerist has approached me and led with a statement that makes me want to stop exploring their booth.
Does the artist paint with their own blood? Are the works created with a pigment only made in a special occult ritual on a full blood moon during a leap year? I want to hear something that feels fresh, unique or cutting-edge, or just piques my interest… then I’ll write about it!
There’s no bigger turn off than a hovering or pushy approach. After your initial pitch, give out a card or pamphlet – let the writer follow up with you after. This, of course, comes with finding out who you’re speaking to. Most of the time writers and journalists will be wearing press badges, but not all fairs offer those to every single writer who attends (and you don’t want to write-off getting a mention in a small or up-and-coming publication).
Start the conversation and show genuine interest in whoever you’re speaking with so you can determine how to interact with them. The last thing a writer wants to be subjected to at an art fair is feeling cornered by a gallerist either trying to sell them a work or asking what the writer can do for them.
Create an experience.
Writers are looking for breaking news, so they’re automatically attracted to booths that present a unique offering that hasn’t been seen before. Let the personality of your gallery shine: commission an eye-catching floral arrangement for your table, paint the walls pink, lay down a shag carpet – whatever makes sense for the gallery. These elements should add to the experience, not detract from the artwork.
In a visually overwhelming environment like an art fair, breaking up the monotony with unexpected, inviting elements goes a long way. Set the stage for writers to come in and experience your offering. We’re not necessarily looking for the next white-box; we’re looking for excitement!
Curate with impact in mind.
Creating an experience in your booth is important, but it can’t compensate impactful curation. If your application to the fair has been accepted, you most likely already have an interesting roster of artwork. Curating and presenting the works in your booth for maximum impact should be your next focus.
Ask yourself: do the works play well with each other? Do the walls feel crowded and overwhelming? If not, edit your presentation!
If you’re presenting a conceptual show, you may want to supplement with explanatory wall-vinyls or literature. These are easy tools for writers to snap a photo of and take back with them for later reference. While a fair certainly isn’t a museum, making sure that spectators and writers alike leave with compelling information is crucial.
Get a head start.
No art fair prep is complete without doing your own outreach. Secure a mention or two before the fair opens – this comes with understanding the value of good PR. You don’t want to necessarily overplay what you are presenting, but you want to spread the word early in order to drum up interest.
Post previews and sneak peaks on Instagram, send newsletters; writers always prepare before walking into art fairs. Sure, we’re looking to be surprised and delighted, but we also want to know what is trending and worth our interest. Drop us some bread crumbs!
At the end of the day, art writers go to fairs not to buy art, but to buy your story. Forging relationships and having good art fair etiquette will take you far! These tips will help you stand out at a fair and attract the members of the art world that will increase your presence in the collectors scene.
Stephanie Zimmerman-Black is an art writer and content creator based in New York. You can find Stephanie’s work in online publications across the web, including Art Zealous, Quiet Lunch and Whitehot Magazine.