Should Artists Present Artwork in Bins at Art Shows, or is it a Distraction?

In the comments on a recent post about giving buyers too many choices, artist Eric Saint Georges asked

In a show: What about the bins? Would you also limit the number of pieces in the bins? On one hand too many pieces can be overwhelming, one the other hand people looking in the bins are likely more interested…

I replied,

I have mixed feelings about bins. I know that for a lot of artists, the bins become the bread and butter at many shows. My concern is that adding a bunch of art into the mix at a show with a bin, can interfere with sales of other work on two levels. First, the work in the bins is likely to be at a much lower price point, and second, you are making it harder for clients to make a purchasing decision for the reasons mentioned in this post.

For artists doing a lot of shows, I would highly recommend experimenting with the bin. Put the bin out at half of your next 10 shows, and leave it in the studio for the other half. See how the presence or lack of the bin affects your profitability for the shows. There can be some variation just by the nature of the different shows, but you should have some pretty good data at the end of 10 shows.

I predict that most artists will see an increase in the sales of major works if the bin isn’t in the booth as a distraction.

Do you Sell Art Out of Bins at Shows?

If not, why not? If so, what have you found to be the effect of having a bin? Are bin sales an important part of your typical show revenue? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

 

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21 Comments

  1. I have always had an area with discounted items when I have my annual Open Studio. Usually I sell a mix of discounted (old) and non discounted (new) paintings. This year I sold only new paintings. None of the discounted items sold. So, I’m thinking it’s time to recycle/repurpose those paintings.

  2. Back when I did the Art Show Circuit, I discovered that a card rack collected a crowd, but sold no paintings. I agree that bins and card racks are a negative distraction if one wants to sell fine art originals.

  3. My 2 bits:
    It’s all about knowing your audience!
    I create an ‘Ideal Customer Avatar’ for each venue I sell in, so that I have the right messaging and the right price point items for the people who are attracted to that particular venue.

    For instance, there are venues where I wouldn’t even think about bin-art such as a Featured Artist Show at the gallery with high end buyers – they tend to feel the low prices options ‘cheapen’ the entire work. But other venues where bin-art is the big seller, such as street fairs, Holiday pop-ups, Art Walks – these folks expect great deals and are turned off by high priced artwork. I actually have a completely different ‘Ideal Customer Avatar’ for my website which is another selling venue (but one where I focus more on students who buy books, classes and retreats).

    So… I believe that the most important thing to think about is WHO your audience will be at your show and the bin/no bin question will answer itself.

    1. Wow, Beverly, you have really done the audience analysis. Perhaps more true for those of us who are crafters than for some others. As for cards, I have purchased cards more often than anything else due to price and space.

  4. Interesting. I had acquired to bins very cheaply. I really bring them out to exhibiting space. I keep it way in the back. These bins are accessible by 2 long time supports. They drop-by once in awhile. These sales are great to make the rent when things are slow.

  5. Specifically referring to art and artisan markets, there appear to be many factors influencing an artist’s decision to place unframed original work and / or print reproductions in a sales bin. One, the demographics of the venue help determine how many high end framed pieces to lower priced unframed pieces to bring. Two, especially at local art and artisan markets, a selection of smaller original work (displayed on panels, never in the bin), and a representation of portfolio images in the sales bin (print reproductions) seems to capture interest and make sales.

    If an artist’s art work interests or pleases a collector, casual discussion with them will help determine how serious they are about purchasing and owning one of the displayed original art works. While one should not judge a book by it’s cover, most of the folks oohing and aahing while visiting artist’s booths do not have deep enough pockets to warrant a two or three thousand dollar plus art purchase.

    Because “less is more,” exhibiting two or three framed ready to hang new works helps focus casual viewer attention. But communication is the key to discovery and sales. Portfolio images, available for sale in the bin, become a tool to introducing work to folks who might not be up for what is exhibited, but are interested enough to look and maybe purchase a print, or inquire about some other original piece.

    Gallery and high end exhibit venues are more focused toward sales of original ready to display artwork. Of course a website of the artist’s work should be available, but the decision to include a sales bin of exhibited and other works would be at the discretion of the gallery or venue management.

    In my experience, the print bin facilitates introductions, enhances discussion and creates sales that otherwise would not have happened.

  6. I do well with both original and print bin art at shows. The people of means are attracted to original art, and buy it. The people who love my art, but like the low cost buy my giclee prints. there are collectors always buy the latest print. One hard and fast rule I have…… No prints until the original has sold.

  7. It seems to me that less than 5% of the people that I see coming out at shows or markets have the assets to afford originals. My average show sells one original and 5 times as much $ in cards and prints. Possibly in a larger market that is different.

  8. I personally hate doing shows displaying my original work, where bins of cheaper work are shown by other artists. People look at the bins and buy the giclee copies of original work. Many people are just happy to have something to hang on their walls and are not concerned that it is a copy of an original. It is the lower price point that matters to most people. Buying an unframed piece in a bin is perceived as cheaper, until the person later looks at framing costs.

  9. It depends entirely on what you put in the bins. Most photographers I know have one of each image framed and hanging and then have matted ones in bins. People who are traveling may not want to buy a framed photo because they’re tougher to carry. When someone does buy a framed one, then most can put one of the matted ones in a frame if they need to. Granted, photos aren’t the same as original oils, etc…
    For my photos, I do have some done using Mordançage, which creates unique images. These are not something I can just copy easily, but I can scan them and make prints. If I did shows, I would likely have matted prints of those in bins and not framed – only the originals would be framed. I’m actually divided on whether I’d do prints for those anyway. The originals are somewhat 3D and prints completely lose that effect. But many shows suggest having items at different price points and I doubt people in my local area will shell out for original Mordançage images anyway.

  10. I only used a bin in 2016 when I was weeding out all my hundred or so discontinued and off shaded 11X17 digital prints for $5 each (normally $25). I did sell a bunch of them but that didn’t increase the total day’s sales much if any.

    Considering they cost 25 cents to print, it was more of a nuisance than it was worth and I gave them all away to my local circus arts studio. We were hosting a student showcase in which I was performing and we advertised “free print of local Oregon scene for anyone coming to Silly Spring”. End of problem.

  11. Like others above, it depends on what/where/when. At the booth shows I do, my bins are all original art on paper and are priced as such. Most of the time I will sell one framed piece and 20 unframed bin works. So, for me, it works. I do not deal in any giclees.

  12. I have a BA in Anthropology, 1972. In my 40’s I began taking art courses at the Art Institute of Chicago as a student at large. Eventually I transferred into a degree program, earning a BFA over the course of 8 1/2 years. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I focused on taking drawing courses and art history. Jason is right that art education is a good way to explore other media, try new techniques. And I feel the art history courses I took were the best. I took the basic survey course at my local community college before I entered the degree program–much cheaper–and I had a really wonderful teacher. Although I am not particularly interested in drawing people the figure drawing I took was also some of my favorite courses–because of the wonderful teacher. I work primarily in watercolor and water-based media and I never took a watercolor class. I think ultimately all artists are “self-taught”–you have to “just do it” in order to learn. But as someone else mentioned, the comaraderie, the conversations, the friendships were invaluable. I learned nothing about the business of art, but I learned that art is one of the most exciting, intellectually stimulating enterprises I can imagine. I am 22 years post-graduation, with a studio outside my home, gallery representation, and a website. I continue to pursue what I have termed my “Home-school MFA”, attending exhibitions, lectures, reading, and taking occasional classes and workshops. When I stop learning, I’ll lose interest. I don’t foresee that happening. Art opens up the world to me; it is how I process what I’m learning.

  13. When we had 2 Art That Makes You Laugh© galleries in Sausalito and Mendocino, CA. we showed my originals up front for the people with better shoes and my ltd. editions and open editions further back in the galleries for the rest of the public. Yes, my originals did sell but over the years the real money came from the sale of prints. Much much more.
    At shows, I hardly ever sell an original (the exception is that I get a goodly number of commissions) because humor in an original is often a tough sell. I made the commitment at the start of my career that I would have affordable art for the masses as opposed to only expensive stuff for the 3% of Americans who can afford an original. So my bins are full and that is where the money comes from. No need to change that.

  14. I have tried both ways and have found benefit in having a bin of less expensive prints and cards. I have, however, limited this over the past couple shows, feeling my clients become rapidly overwhelmed with too many choices. I may sell three pricy originals, but dozens of prints. I am starting to offer more Giclee prints on canvas also, which are more affordable. I may have the smaller ones in a bin also. So far, this seems to work for me. It’s an evolving process, for sure.

  15. Depends on the gig. Studios events bring a different mix of folks from a primer opening. At an “Open Studio” or pop-up event, many visitors just want a piece of work from the artist and will make an impulse purchase. Always important to know who you are appealing to and where.

  16. To be honest. It is not about me selling a print in a bin or originals off the wall. What it really is about is the customer. What does the customer like? Why was the customer attracted to what I have? Who is really keeping score out there in the art world? Why is it that for 45 years I have continued staying in business while known galleries go out of business? It’s because I have what the customer wants and I enjoy doing it. They always have two choices, an original or a print. I set up large print bins with subject titles for quick references and sell all prints with two choices, a lighter top mat with a dark blue bottom mat or a dark blue top mat with a light bottom mat. The dark mats are selling 3 times better than the light ones. My racks are adult activity centers. They draw the people in. I fill my walls with as much art as I can get on them. If you hang 100% you could sell 10 %. If you take and only hang that 10% you might just end up selling 10% of that, which could be 1%

  17. The bins(I have 4) are the bread and butter of a show…..my price points are lower than most…..as much as i’d like to be the artist that sells $500 canvases , those are far and few between……Let’s compare a 30 x 20 piece , I have metal pieces that I sell for 295-395 depending on the show , my canvas in that size is $110 , or they can shop the bins from $20-$35(which cost me $2-$5 to make)….so I do have a price point for everyone’s budget , I would rather have a client that has too much choice , than not enough choice…so to me after 20 shows per year for 2 yrs , the bins are a winner….I am even considering for one yr to go from 4 bins to 10 , just to see if it increases the revenue of a show…..I make double if i’m lucky on my metal and canvas pieces , but my bins , i make 5-8 times what it cost me to put them together

  18. I find that artists often overlook the market demographic. With over 15 years in sales and marketing, I can’t keep myself from asking the question “who is your buyer at that outdoor market?” Too many times the outdoor festivals are marketed to families as entertaining events. Mind you, there are families who can afford BOTH soccer shoes for their kids AND original artwork, but many cannot. They will often browse but choose to buy soccer shoes first. Choose wisely on your outdoor events–who will be attending?Another good question is “Is my buyer a first-timer or a seasoned collector?” Your buyer’s answer will help you determine how to direct their attention. Lastly, I avoid offering the same print in the bin as the original framed artwork. If they can buy the inexpensive print why would they consider paying more for an original? The most recent Peter Max exhibit I attended, I noticed he had posted a payment plan near the more costly pieces. That is a great marketing plan to help a new collector get started! http://www.galleriesonthego.com

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