Good, cheap way to display paintings at art fair?
August 8, 2011 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Signed up for a 10x10 tent at an outdoor art fair; seeking advice on how to display my paintings. My plan is to wire pieces of pegboard together to make "walls" to hang the paintings on. Got a better idea?

I know this solution is kinda ghetto, but specialized solutions for this kind of thing seem to be *really* expensive. If you have a better idea (or actual experience with this sort of thing), I'd love to hear from you.
posted by halfguard to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds fine. Paint the pegboard white so it looks fresh and neutral, rather than the muddy brown color it comes in. Try to wire the walls together in an attractive, organized fashion than all haphazard-like, and maybe use white-coated wire so it blends in better. When I've seen this done at fairs, it's always broken up by standing easels and table displays to break up the space, so consider that, too.

My roommate does outdoor shows all the time (she does jewelry design), and her system involves a variety of bookshelves set at different heights to set the hand and necklace mannequins on. Something like that would probably only work for you if your paintings are small.
posted by phunniemee at 12:23 PM on August 8, 2011

Make sure the pegboard is firmly attached everywhere, and not just freestanding. With an outdoor show, wind is a huge factor. Especially for flat work artists.
posted by Vaike at 12:31 PM on August 8, 2011

Here's a very useful blog post with pix on this subject. Good ideas there about how to lay it out — don't just have three flat walls in the booth — do something that draws people in.

Also, I'd go for warm gray walls, not white. Looks more like a gallery. The pegboard will need some framing to stiffen it, if you want it to stand up.

And, don't make the mistake of sitting in your booth, unless its raining and nobody's there anyway. Nothing discourages people more from going into the booth than the artist or craftsperson sitting in the middle of it. Hang around in front and to the side. Go in only when someone seems particularly interested or has questions.
posted by beagle at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've seen people do this using wire cube shelving units for 'walls' and it's looked nice -- the artwork sort of 'floats' on a grass background with the black wire shelves.

Just Google-image-searching 'outdoor art fair' brings up some options; here is a fellow with a similar black-wire sort of deal, though I don't know how it's assembled.
posted by kmennie at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2011

And, don't make the mistake of sitting in your booth, unless its raining and nobody's there anyway. Nothing discourages people more from going into the booth than the artist or craftsperson sitting in the middle of it. Hang around in front and to the side. Go in only when someone seems particularly interested or has questions.

I would agree not to sit in the middle of it but nothing would discourage me more than the artist standing at the entrance. I would feel like I was going to get a hard sell as soon as I walked in so I wouldn't walk in.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:51 PM on August 8, 2011

Annnd I really wish there was an edit button (that is twice in two days).

I use the wire cube shelving units for walls/backdrops when I do shows. I definitely seen people hanging art on them.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2011

I use long (5 and 6 foot) white plastic wire shelves (like in closets) to display my hanging mosaics at fairs. I used to set them up like zig-zagged walls (using cable ties at the top and bottom to secure each "panel" to the one next to it, and then cable ties to attach to the legs of the tent), but this year, I had a better idea. I now set them up like tents (two cable ties tying together the two shelf lengths at top, and two cable ties loosely looped around the sides 20% from the top to control how wide the inverted V opens. I can just fold each V display flat, and shove them in the car when I'm done. These are very light and portable, and easy to set up and take down and reuse. Also, you can place them far enough inside the tent for the rain. I bought these lengths at a home improvement store (although I once bought 2 foot lengths I can use on top of a table at a yard sale two years ago).

The lady across from me last weekend was using wire racks attached to the tent legs with small bungie cords to create corners -- but she was selling purses and could sacrifice extra space at interior corners - but she had to act quick when it rained to make sure they didn't get soaked on the outside - she had some sort of meshy fabric to cover them.

I hang things on s hooks from the various wire bars. I have a lot of translucent things, so the light passing through is very helpful.

I sit or stand in the back or side of my tent, often behind a table. I'm polite and friendly, but not overly intrusive. I'm often knitting, which seems to be an indicator for "I'm not going to sell you hard, but I'm happy to answer questions and tell you more if you really seem interested in something."

I use the extra stakes from my tent to anchor the bottom row of wire on the shelves into the ground, but they're pretty stable in the wind without them.
posted by julen at 3:43 PM on August 8, 2011

Honestly, your solution is serviceable but not awesome. It doesn't have the creative WOW factor that will draw people in to the booth, which is essential for a successful show. Are you a corner booth or are you between two other booths? When is the show? Your booth should compliment the work you do. Are your paintings bright, retro, sleek, modern, crafty, etc.? Are they framed in glass or not? How are you going to deal with lighting (if it's outdoors and during daylight hours, may not be an issue)?

Since you're looking for a cheap solution, I would suggest, at the very least, covering pegboard with fabric. It's more professional looking than paint, which can clog up the holes unless you spend an ungodly amount of time dealing with it. Think about a color that will compliment your work and draw people into the booth. I would also strongly suggest that you buy sturdy wood clamps to keep the pegboard steady. This is in addition to the wiring, since you want to have something besides the clamps providing lift. Never have a single point of failure where your livelihood (art) is at stake.

Check and see whether there's an office liquidation company in your locale. Often, they have cubical walls, which are very sturdy. Do make sure to cover them with more attractive fabric, though. No one wants to think about the office while out at a fair...
posted by stoneweaver at 6:23 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I was looking for pictures of some creative setups and stumbled across this set of articles, which seem pretty helpful.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:27 PM on August 8, 2011

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