Navigating the Wholesale Art Landscape: How Exhibiting at Artexpo Las Vegas Can Grow Your Business

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Remember the days of running to the local record store, weekly allowance in hand, to nab the latest 8-track or cassette single? Times have changed. Songs are now just a click away, thanks to Spotify, iTunes, and the other myriad digital music sources we have at our fingertips. And the art world is evolving in the same way.

“It seems like just yesterday I was selling serigraphs, prints, and originals to hundreds of galleries across the United States,” recalls Eric Smith, president and CEO of Redwood Media Group. “Those days are gone. Art is sold through multiple venues, not just at galleries anymore. Art is purchased online, through art dealers, galleries, frame shops, designers, and architects.”

What does that mean for artists and art publishers? To find success in a thriving yet shifting market, one that accounts for multiple sales venues both on- and offline, Smith explains, “you have to expand your market reach to designers, architects, home furnishing markets, and the hospitality industry—and you need to know how to sell to them, what margins they’re looking for, and their project timeframe.”

A New Venue for Success

One opportunity to do just that is by exhibiting at Artexpo Las Vegas, RMG’s newest show taking place January 28‒31, 2018, at the renowned Las Vegas Market. Known for producing Artexpo New York, the world’s largest fine art trade show now in its 40th year, RMG formalized an alliance with Las Vegas Market this past June to bring the highly successful Artexpo brand to Las Vegas beginning in 2018.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to connect well-established artists, gallery owners, and publishers with a rapidly growing base of interior designers, architects, hospitality executives, and upscale retailers,” says Smith. “Partnering with Las Vegas Market also allows us to offer exhibitors unparalleled promotional programs, marketing support, and buyer outreach.”

Smith estimates that 12,000 to 15,000 designers will visit the pavilion in which Artexpo Las Vegas will be located at Las Vegas Market. That gives incredible exposure to artists targeting a particular niche. “Say there’s an artist who specializes in sports art,” muses Smith, “whose pieces would be perfect for a ‘man cave.’ Even if only 10 designers out of those 15,000 make a purchase, he or she could sell 20 pieces at one show.”

Another expert in the industry who is widely familiar with multiple art distribution channels is Litsa Spanos, president and owner of ADC, Art Design Consultants. More than a gallery, ADC is one of the nation’s leading full-service art consultation companies—and one with the sole mission of creating beautiful environments. We asked Spanos why it’s important to be thinking about wholesale clients like the ones who attend Las Vegas Market.

“I’ve always had wholesale clients,” she says. “Because why not? It’s a constant market.” Spanos explains that while private collectors run out of space, designers, architects, and galleries are constantly doing new projects and bringing in new business.

“If you want to expand on a national level,” Spanos continues, “Las Vegas Market is the best. [It] was created as an alternative for the industry on the West Coast, versus the High Point Market that serves the East Coast. Today, Las Vegas Market is such a destination that people come from all over the country and the world to attend. It’s great that Artexpo Las Vegas is going to be there. It’s a great opportunity for the fine art portion of the art business.”

One thing to keep in mind about doing trade shows like Artexpo Las Vegas or Artexpo New York, Spanos points out, is that you have to be prepared to discount your work. “Designers will expect a 10‒50 percent discount off of retail price—be prepared,” she advises. “Remember, they have to re-sell. You need to be sure you have the margin built into your art and are prepared to offer the discount they need for their business. And be willing to negotiate based on quantities and building a relationship with designer.”

To make a good impression when coming face to face with potential clients at shows like Artexpo Las Vegas, Smith emphasizes the importance of connecting on a personal level. “Meet and greet the designers, give them samples, and sell to them with a story behind every piece,” he says, before adding, “and make sure to size your work both framed and unframed, as they’ll often want to pick the frame.”

Be Prepared for When Opportunity Strikes

Outside of trade shows, how does Spanos recommend finding the right kind of clients? “Research!” she says. “Look at the local, regional, and national scene. Exhibit at art shows in the areas where you want to grow your business.” She recommends researching which galleries are a match for your style of art so as not to waste your time. “If your art’s focus is on western painting,” she says, “you won’t have much luck selling to a gallery that specializes in modern art.”

Also, Spanos asserts, it’s important to be ready with all your marketing collateral and promo materials, including an updated website with high-quality imagery, a current online portfolio, and a ready-to-send mailer with your logo and a compelling story of who you are, what you do, and why potential galleries or clients should care about your work.

“Be ready to go with promotional materials that are branded and cohesive,” recommends Spanos. Then, once you’ve done your research, “call them and send them your mailer and promo materials. If they are local, see if you can make an appointment to review your portfolio.”

Most importantly, Spanos adds, “Keep in contact. They may not need you now—but they will in the future.” By maintaining an active blog and social media presence and sending out regular e-newsletters, you’ll be more visible to clients. “You don’t know when someone needs what you have,” Spanos advises. “Do consistent outreach so they don’t forget you. If you are out there showing [your work], then you are consistently top of mind.”

Make sure to follow up with past clients and anyone that’s shown interest in your work, Spanos suggests, and do it with a personal approach, such as a phone call or a card in the mail.

Looking Ahead to Las Vegas

For artists and publishers thinking about broadening their distribution, Artexpo Las Vegas offers the perfect opportunity. Spanos shares why she’ll be there with ADC, citing the importance of establishing relationships face to face: “I’d like to reach more residential designers for our artists,” she mentions, “and have the opportunity to meet people we would never have the opportunity to meet and work with otherwise.”

We hope you’ll join Spanos, Smith, and other industry leaders at Artexpo Las Vegas in January.

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