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.

 

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

28 Comments

  1. So much depends on what the viewer can afford. Many art lovers cannot afford to spend $400 or more at a show for an original, but almost anyone can afford $25 for an 8×10 print. To me it’s the difference between 40 people saying “beautiful” and half of them buying a print. That one person who wants or can afford an original it will still buy it. 1-phil-strang,pixels,com

  2. I’ve tried a variety of print formats: matted prints on paper, canvas prints on panels, stretched canvas ready to hang. They haven’t sold well enough to justify doing them and by the time I pay for the print and any gallery or show commissions or fees, it doesn’t seem worth it. I prefer to have a variety of sizes of originals from miniatures to large paintings for a good range of price points. I have most of the larger paintings photographed & have had prints made on request, especially if the original has sold. I do sell a lot of cards so those seem worth doing.

  3. As a viewer, I am very put off by seeing an “original” (or something akin to original) in a frame with the same image in the bin wrapped in plastic. Do I know these various items are formatted that way? Yes! What it does for me is essentially put the “original” out of my mind and I’m not interested in collecting prints even though I work in some mediums that require printing. Decades ago when I was doing printmaking (engraving, etching, lino-cut), I did shows and had a “bin” but these were the editions of what was framed on display. People needing something more than simple sectional frame could buy the print and have it tailored to their decor. it was reasonably successful but a whole other universe from today.

    A local gallery does have “bins” but they are flat files. The work that typically is in the flat file can be original flat work un-matted, unframed or printed prints of original work. It works real well as this gallery also does custom framing and has since its inception decades ago. But this is not a booth and the process as well as the clientele is used to the arrangement.
    I’ve bought work from this gallery both from the wall and the drawer. The experience is different enough that there is no interference.

  4. I get it! I am a new studio (aka, one person gallery) in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. I have plenty of original oils on the walls, and also have a rack of printed cards and small bins of matted prints. People inevitably go to the cards and prints first! It’s like “whew! something I can afford so I don’t have to feel obligated to buy an original!” Unfortunately, then many of them miss the opportunity to read the insightful titles and narratives I have displayed with each painting that might strike a chord in their own hearts. I wonder if there’s a way or a place I can keep the “affordables” for people to see AFTER they’ve been through the exhibit. If they’re not going to buy an original today, taking home a memento might still keep me top-of-mind for a potential future purchase? As a brand new business last year, I sold 13 originals for $7700 and various prints from canvas giclees to cards for $5400. Question is, if I don’t offer the prints, will I make up for that amount in originals next year? A crystal ball would be nice!

  5. I do, and make a good part of my sales from 11″X17″ digital prints, which I also make the most profit on per item.

    At small and medium sized shows where I just bring my table they are the main feature, and I have greeting cards, postcard sets, and my coffee table book displayed.

    At full sized shows where I bring along the booth too, and hang original paintings, I sell about the same number of above items. If the show’s real good I’ll sell a few originals. If it’s average I sell none but they help bring people in and sell the prints and sometimes I get contacted later and they buy an original.

  6. My sales mainly consist of matted prints and cards because the customer base on Cape Cod is the tourist. The artwork is easily and safely packed in the bottom of a suitcase. Even offering original 5 x 7 frames canvases under $100, it’s the prints that walk out of the bin.

  7. My sales mainly consist of matted prints and cards because the customer base on Cape Cod is the tourist. The artwork is easily and safely packed in the bottom of a suitcase. Even offering original 5 x 7 frames canvases under $100, it’s the prints that walk out of the bin. Rarely do I sell an original 16×20 or 8×10 but I can keep selling that print after its gone.

  8. I am for the bin!
    I have two sizes at $60 and $90. Why give the cheap postcards or $20 8×10 option at shows? If they ask for it just say they are available on your website or in stores across North America (my case).
    My originals are too expensive for outdoor show people (over $2,000) so it’s essential for me to have this option that everyone can afford.
    I really doubt that not having it would increase my sales of paintings. Yes for a gallery, not for an artist at a show.
    If I don’t sell originals I always come out with a lot of money thanks for my bin!

    1. I only paint and sell original paintings and only show in two league shows that last two days while I do have my work in several galleries. I experimented once with small matted plein air pieces in a bin and did find that a distraction from the other displayed work. I found that if I inexpensively but tastefully framed those same paintings that they sold better matted under glass.
      Cards work for some folks but I find that too time consuming and a distraction from my original work.

  9. My work in bins are unframed originals. I sell way more of them than framed work from the walls. People seem to think they can frame them at a savings. For photographers, it seems like a reasonable thing. Some of my friends sell reproductions, but only of work which has already sold in its original form.

    1. I’m one of those people who shops the bins. Being a “starving “ artist myself and a lover if all things original I thank you for having original pieces in the bin.
      Very often I don’t care for the way the artist has frame an item and I can’t afford to pay for a frame I don’t care for.
      I hang canvas work without frames. I hunt for used frames in yard sales. I have cut down secondhand frames. I have painted some frames . I have bought cheap frames. I have chipped frames. I don’t care!!! The thing is I can afford to get a wonderful piece of artwork up on my wall and enjoy it.

      1. I agree. I can’t afford $300 to $1,000 for an original (I wish)
        But a small original or matted print is wonderful. I don’t like the snob artist that only caters to rich people.

  10. The venues that artists are invited to participate in vary greatly in space availability, original art requirements vs reproductions, and exhibit format.

    An “Exhibit” is a more formal venue where only juried art is allowed to be visible.

    The term, “Show,” implies an indoor limited time venue. Like a “Pop-Up Gallery,” a “Show” would have limited space where artists would be allowed to bring a few props and for sale items, for an evening, or a day or two. Although some “shows” are actually Exhibits, lasting weeks or months, as in a gallery exhibit setting.

    The term, “Art Market” generally implies an outdoor venue, but not necessarily. This is a dedicated sales venue with looser restrictions and requirements where there is enough space to set up a booth, tables, easels and show off more product.

    My take on print bins at a limited space venue (Show) is that the bin is like a large format portfolio. The few original works allowed by available space draws people in. The bin lets folks peruse some of my other art works, offers another place for conversation to start, and makes sales of original work easier.
    At Art Markets, granted the clientele might not be as well heeled as the invited guests at a “show,” with much more space for props and original art, the print bins are absolutely essential. More than 50% of my original art buyers are folks who saw something in my print bin and asked if the original art was available. I understand an uncluttered and focused arrangement helps a visitor to see each work shown, but if that in itself does not engage them, the print bin portfolios often do.

    Really, it is all about giving the visitor a chance to comment and talk about what they like and what they might be willing to purchase. The print bin is a tool to engage customers. How else can I discover who they are? With my sales hat on, conversation is how I get to the close…reproductions or original art.

  11. During a Featured Artist Shows in a gallery, I debated whether to include a bin of prints (because of the very reasons you pointed out). However, other artists convinced me to do so, and WOW did that turn out to be a great decision!

    Here’s why: a woman entrepreneur, who was opening up a midwife center in the city, bought a couple of prints saying that her until her business opened it was all she could afford. However, after having the prints in the center for a couple of weeks, she returned to buy originals, and ultimately host a rotating show of my art in the center. My first show at the center was in place during her grand opening reception with clients and business leaders in the city… the ripple effect was very lucrative. So glad I had a print bin at my gallery show!

  12. Hi Jason, This is a very hot topic in our gallery of late. Our sales data clearly shows that our 2019 sales from bins do not justify dedicating space to them. However, some artists want bins regardless.

    My question to you is, do you have a bin in Xanadu, and why or why not?

  13. Artwork in bins is perceived to be reproductions and they expect it to be less expensive. So if you have originals only, put a sign on the bin letting people they are originals.

    Larry Berman

  14. I have found that over decades of doing shows the “bins” are visual clutter and a general distraction. if I do include a bin it is usually a small one of 11 x 14 prints that are out of the way and clearly secondary to the originals.
    Sometime a small sign “Prints available” can bring a new customer to the website later.
    I have noticed that the bins are useful for a client who wants a custom piece and then the prints become a protfolio of sorts.
    thanks, great topic!

  15. I don’t do shows, but in all but one gallery I have prints for sale in racks, and that gallery may add print racks later this year. Last year I sold close to 700 prints. I believe it gives a buyer options across many price points.

    I also have prints on canvas ranging from small to large as well as prints on metal up to 40×60.

  16. I have bins and originals in one gallery and just originals in another. It is mostly the logistics of the 2nd gallery that I do not have bins. Having said that, I go off of the business idea of having “multiple streams of income”. Having the bins in the one gallery produced a consistent income monthly over a hit and miss sale of an original. I also sell cards with my art which are big sellers, a nice flow of income and have made larger sales from them. I had a lady contact me Who had received one of my cards from her husband. She loved it so much she Contacted me through my website and inquired about buying the original which she did!
    I as an artist love and buy originals when I can, but, happy to own a limited edition or print of an artists work that I love as well. I personally believe our art is meant to bring joy to those who connect with it and love it. Why have them walk away empty handed? Offer prints, cards, limited editions. You will be bringing joy to their life every day when they look at it in their home.

  17. It’s been years since I had a booth. I had a bin with originals matted and clear wrapped. If I used a bin today it would just be for prints of the original paintings on the walls. It makes my art more accessible to others. But I would also keep an eye out to see how profitable it is—are original sales suffering from the prints?

  18. I have over the years sold from the wall at shows, from the studio ( usually larger works and commissions and from bins in shows that are really about impulse purchasing. But what I’ve noticed is it’s mostly about the size of the work and the price. I haven’t been in an artist “ show” in many years but if people are going to purchase and walk away with the art they have to be able to carry it easily. The problem I have with bins is that people who don’t stop to explore them never see the work at all. I’d rather put the same piece on a wall , an easel or a table, and let it grab some attention. But then again I only make one of a kind works . I don’t make reproductions. When I do print I tend to rework them into unique images. But it is helpful and interesting to hear the testimonies for the economics of cards and reproductions.

  19. As a ceramic sculptor, all I can say on this matter is: I ENVY painters all the different options they have! Original, print, postcard, in a bin, on the wall…. I always joke (or do I???) that my life would be a whole lot easier and my work more lucrative if my talent lay in painting and not in sculpting. All I can do is cart my heavy and fragile work in its original form from show to show, plus the stands to place the pieces on. Even shipping is an expensive pain, and not always an option.

    So painters: be grateful for the portability of your work and all the options available to you.

    Not sure this is the proper place to say this, but anyway, here goes my rant! (All said in good humor) 🙂

    Valeria

  20. I’m an artist and collector of other artist’s work. There are a couple of artists whose shows I will go to just for the bins. One in particular has a bin of unframed plein airs, and it’s the only reason I go. They’re gorgeous little masterpieces and since they’re unframed, the cost is $1500 less than framed. The day he stops putting out the bin is the day I stop going to his booth. It’s also the reason I offer the option to purchase paintings framed or unframed. Framing is expensive and if the customer wants their own frame, fine by me. I have a faithful following of loyal customers that started with a notecard, then a print, then a small painting, then multiple original nicely framed paintings. Cheers to artists who get huge sales right off the bat, but sometimes a variety of smaller priced options will build to bigger sales as well.

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