The past two months have been quite busy, and one of the culminations of all the insanity was The Barcelona Showcase. I have a number of things to say about being involved in this exhibition, since being asked to participate earlier this year, some criticisms and observations.
This was the first time I was participating in the Showcase, and I viewed my involvement as research. These sorts of “art fairs” can be both fun and daunting, and you really need to figure out why you are joining in, as they can be quite expensive. I was unable to find out too much on the Showcase before I decided to join, so I thought I would post this “review” for future artists and galleries that may be interested in participating.
On the whole I found the experience positive, but perhaps this is because my list of goals for the exhibition were more based on marketing, rather than selling artwork. I was interested to see how the show worked, and whether it would be something that I would want to continue being involved in. Ultimately I don’t think I will do it again for a number of reasons I will talk about in a little bit, but I can recommend doing it once, perhaps for the same reasons I participated this year. I would be interested to hear your comments on the showcase if you went, as an artist, visitor or on this sort of exhibition in general.
There were over 150 artists presenting work, from paintings, to photography to mixed media. There was no set theme, and artists were not grouped by country or medium. There was a variety of artists from around the world each presenting their slice of art on a 2m x 1m board. The Showcase was open for one day from about 11am until 11pm on the 14th of July 2012. These are my humble opinions the event.
The venue, without doubt, is fabulous, and it’s quite fun to be able to say that I exhibited art in one of Gaudi’s most well known and, in my opinion, beautiful buildings. It also is quite easy to make “exhibited on the Barcelona Showcase at Casa Batllo” look good on a C.v. or promotional material. I actually forgot in the midst of June/July madness to add it to my website, but you can be sure it will go up in shining lights as soon as I have a moment.
I was a little disappointed that the showcase was not actually inside the main part of Casa Batllo but rather in the exhibitions hall via a separate entrance in the building. Artists however where given a 50% discount to visit the museum during the day.
Considering the fact that to secure a spot on the show, you needed to pay 200 Euros, I felt as an artist, that you needed to justify reasons for partaking in the exhibition. I weighed up mine before making the transfer, and one of my major pros was the venue, and the (possibly superficial) reason of being able to “sell” the importance of exhibiting in Casa batllo. Because, yes, let’s be honest, if you have some spare money, as an artist it is important to promote your work, and this showcase falls into a very valid advertising category.
In the end it was worth it? Without being able to have found much information on the show, prior to joining, and I even researched previous artists, and emailed them asking what they thought, I decided the only way to find out was to try it. I could have spent the 200 euros on new paint, or web marketing, but in the end it would have disappeared somewhere. So paying to participate for future reference was another reason for me to put The Barcelona Showcase to the test.
Event organisers stated on the official Showcase website, that the previous year had brought in over 2000 viewers, they also promised that they would promote and sell the work of artists and galleries with no markup on any work. This all sounded great, however in reality I did feel that it was really the venue itself that brought most of the people, and not the promotional marketing of the organisers. Upon arrival during the set up hours before the day kicked off, I was given some posters and a catalogue. I felt that receiving the poster on the morning of the show was a bit late and since I had a ridiculously busy day ahead of me, I wasn’t going to be able to do much with a poster. It would have been great to have seen these posters up around Barcelona, prior to the show, and this I feel was really the biggest problem I had with the Showcase, and probably the reason I wouldn’t participate in future years.
The fact that the venue brought most people to the event, meant that these visitors were mostly tourists who happened to see the poster outside the venue when they came to do a tour of Casa Batllo. Since they had no idea that it was happening until they arrived, they wouldn’t be coming for the showcase at all, and therefore would not have been specifically coming to see artworks, or for that matter buy any artworks.
I have participated before in similar art fairs, namely the Tokyo Design Festa, and the amount of work that goes into promoting that fair as a great place to buy and see unique art makes a huge difference. It means that people are aware that you will be selling your artworks or designs, they are also specifically looking to buy gifts or decoration for their homes. Galleries are scouting for new talent. It completely makes sense to participate in something like this then, as you have a chance of recuperating your initial expenses as well as perhaps being able to network with galleries, your participation goes over and above just being able to say you were part of the fair.
The Barcelona Showcase may have had 3000 people pass through the halls this year, but these people were all probably the wrong target audience for artists trying to promote and sell work.
Of course being part of any exhibition doesn’t necessarily mean you will sell any work, and I think that it is incredibly valid to have your work on a wall as opposed to just in a virtual space on your web portfolio. You learn how to exhibit your art, how to market yourself, how to hang artworks, what kind of art to make for what show, and a whole host of important skills any artist needs. You can only perfect these skills with practise, and even if you don’t sell anything, because your artwork is up as part of a group show, people you didn’t specifically invite to come and see what you created will perhaps take a second look and remember your name for a future date.
Along with many of the other artists, I had a pile of postcards up, that you could take, and I had to refill my stock when I came back later for the cava reception. Even though perhaps many people were just taking them because they were free, you never know where your postcard or business card could end up and what kind of positivity this may lead to.
Being part of a group show is also something that I enjoy, it’s a great opportunity to network and share tips with other artists. The world is a magical place, and when you are exposed to a varied spectrum of creative people it can inspire you in ways that will surprise you. You can learn from each other, and perhaps a connection over a painted subject or a random conversation about technique will germinate an idea for collaboration in the future. I have spoken about this in the past, the art world can be a scary place (the same as any competitive scene) but collaboration can work for everyone. Working together instead of competing often creates something unique and far stronger, than doing it all on your own!
Unfortunately I was unable to stand next to my work all day, I had other pressing matters that I had to deal with, and I was also under the impression that the organisers would sell and promote work. Later when I returned for the evening ceremony I discovered that I had actually sold work. I think I was one of possibly 3 artists out of over 150 on the showcase to sell anything. I’m unsure how many of the artists did stand next to their artwork and chat with passers by, or how many of them were also under the impression that the organisers would be fielding queries for sales. Interestingly enough, I sold work to one of the people working on the showcase, which again reiterates my point that this person actually knew prior to the exhibition that artworks would be for sale, and had possibly decided beforehand that they may be interested in buying something if they saw anything they liked!
Of course I was pretty excited, and it’s a huge pity that I had not been able to be there all day, because perhaps if I had been “selling” my own work, I may have sold more, or made more connections. This is certainly something that I would advise to future participating artists.
My final observations are mixed. There was a visual overload of different work, which can be exciting and fantastic, I saw many new artworks that I loved, but I did feel a little bit that the set up seemed unprofessional, it was all a bit overwhelming and it seemed a tad like a high school art exhibition. I would have liked to have seen the work slightly more curated. However much of my impressions could be due to my confusion over what the Barcelona Showcase is. They sell themselves very much like a swish fancy gallery event, and not as an art fair, but the lack of door security, prepared speeches and that the cava ran out made me feel like I wasn’t attending a black tie event. There needs to be more symmetry. If you want it to be expensive and fancy then you need to keep it more exclusive. If this is not the case, then perhaps tailoring the event and marketing it more as a fun, dynamic explosion of new and exciting art would explain the poor lighting and relaxed organisation.
I think ultimately the event is still young and defining itself. Perhaps in a few years it would have sorted out the kinks, and things will run more smoothly and be more beneficial to both organisers and artists alike. For now, I would not participate again, not for 200 Euros, but perhaps next year I will visit the venue and see how I feel on the outside looking in.
On a personal level, preparing work for the showcase has helped me create new work that I am very pleased with, and jump started my inspiration for making a new body of work, and this for me is completely worth 200 Euros!