5 Art-World Pros on Their Must-Have Items for Art Fairs

It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of every last detail when an art fair is looming around the corner. You’ve got tools for installation (or you’ve coordinated with your art handlers), prepared a checklist of available works and editions, and all apps and online listings have been double-checked and updated… not to mention how hard you’ve been working on all that marketing!

Photo by Jano Gepiga via Shutterstock

Photo by Jano Gepiga via Shutterstock

With all those logistics to keep track of and little room for error - along with the “all hands on deck” nature of small teams - making sure you’ve carved some time out to throw your personal essentials into your Art Fair Toolkit is an absolute necessity. After all, just because it’s go-time doesn’t mean you should skimp on your self-care.

There are few who know better what imperative extras to keep handy when facing a marathon weekend of non-stop action than experienced professionals. We asked five artists, gallerists and curators what their must-have personal items are for weathering a fair or show opening. Whether it’s a phone battery extension pack or a package of face-blotters, this list will have you more than prepared to jump feet-first into your next art fair.

photo by a Steve Johnson via Shutterstock

photo by a Steve Johnson via Shutterstock

McKenzie Merriman

artist and gallerist → red dots

“I primarily work with emerging artists who have never had a solo exhibit of their work. The artist and I work so hard to promote their show, install the work and prep the space, but it often slips their mind that people might actually want to purchase. Having red dots ready for the artist shows them you’re ready to facilitate a sale, and nothing beats the satisfaction of placing that dot on what could be their first sold piece ever!”

Kelly Goldfeder

artist and curator → the bare necessities

“I always need a pack of ciggs and a pen with an eraser.”

Jen Clay

artist → boundaries

“I really love critiques but I have begun to make this boundary for myself to not focus on critical comments during a opening. This boundary helps me have a good experience and not focus on negative comments so I don't question the amount of time I've poured into the work. Save those comments for at least a week later so you can enjoy your moment and the hard work you've done.”

Jennifer Simmons

founder and curator of Doppelgänger Projectsbattery charger

“I use my phone constantly, whether for snapping pictures of art + info I come across, taking field notes, texting/slacking/emailing, or constantly refreshing Instagram or my inventory app (ArtBinder). Though it has a pretty good battery life, before the end of a fair day my phone will be running on fumes, so I usually have a battery charger on hand to keep it juiced.”

Sophie Olympia Riese

independent curator → anything but gum

“At the opening of a show, there’s hardly time to catch your breath, so I try to keep things I know I’ll need with me in a small structured purse (I rarely have pockets), starting with the priceless. Then I’d say: chapstick, hand sanitizer, breath mints, cards (both personal and business), pen and notebook, and bandaids. Don’t chew gum, but expect to need to freshen up.”

Photo by Oliur via Unsplash

Photo by Oliur via Unsplash

Some other items you might want to consider keeping in your back pocket:

  • Lip balm, because you’re the mouthpiece of your work - keep things smooth!

  • A granola bar, for those moments when you’re so busy interacting with others you barely have time to eat.

  • A paper clip or other small fidget item to keep your nerves in check.

  • An essential oil roller for moments when you just need a little breather.

While you don’t want to weigh yourself down with unnecessary extras, hopefully you’ve gleaned some inspiration for personal care items you can stow away in your bag or back pocket for an easy, centering ritual during your next big moment. Set yourself up for success!


Put these tips to the test at one of our upcoming fairs.