Science fiction convention art shows can be a little confusing if you’ve never experienced one. It’s not an art fair, where artists set up a booth for the weekend. It’s not a gallery, where art is hung on big white walls with little title cards. It’s more like a cross between a silent auction and a pop-up store in the mall during the holidays.
I’ve participated in the ConQuesT art show annually for the past 14 years. I’ve even been co-director of the show a couple of times. Here’s how it works:
The art show staff and volunteers set up wire grid to use as display walls in a hotel ballroom on Thursday night, then hang art that was mailed in by non-attending artists. Attending artists hang their own art when they arrive on Thursday night or Friday morning.
We use S-hooks and plastic hang tabs (or binder clips!) to hang the art on the display grids. 3-D art is displayed on tables. Each piece has a bid sheet with the artist’s name, the title, the media used, its designation as an original or numbered print, both a minimum bid and a direct sale price, and a place to write a bid. Artists pay for their display space, and the art show takes a commission on art sold.
There is usually an area designated as the “print shop”, where you can buy whatever fixed-price limited edition prints the artists have placed there.
The art show opens midday on Friday to registered attendees of the convention and to random members of the public who stumble onto it while in the hotel. Silent bids are accepted until late Saturday afternoon, and the most popular pieces (based on number of bids) go to voice auction on Saturday night. If you place a minimum bid on a piece and you’re the only bidder, you pay for it on Sunday morning and take it home. If you love the piece so much you don’t want to risk losing it to another bidder, you pay the direct sale price right then and there and you take it home.
On Sunday, after all the sold art has been picked up and paid for, the artists pack up their unsold pieces and verify with the art show director which ones have sold. Artists receive a check by mail a few weeks later. When it’s done, the staff and volunteers disassemble the display grids and return them to storage until next year.
ConQuesT was good to me this year. My favorite skeptical bunny, a steampunk dragon I had shown for several years, and several of my small mixed media pieces found new homes. I also received a special gift: A hat that belonged to Miss Mary, one of my biggest fans, who passed away a few months ago. Miss Mary was a sweetheart in every sense of the word, and she is dearly missed.
Next up is SoonerCon in Oklahoma City at the end of June.