Art Fair Convention

Brian J. Sullivan

Amazing, simply amazing. I just returned from the 34th annual art fair dealer trade show in Las Vegas. This is a little known trade show of vendors hawking the newest trends in products for the art fair circuit. Everything from new tent systems to imported products for the buy and sell crowd. This is cutting edge stuff, folks. This is the beginning of the pipeline through which new products find their way to the market. Undoubtedly you will begin to see these new products making their way to the art fair circuit within the next couple of years. So that you don't miss out, I have included several highlights I think are among the newest trend setters.

There were several different companies with their own version of panelled wall/tent systems. Think of prefab houses coming in snap-together panels which not only are covered in nice carpet but also contain built in electrical outlets and track lighting. The walls snap together not only to make the display walls, but also serve as the exterior structure of your tent, thereby eliminating the side canvas panels. The top is a truss like structure which slides into place and allows the panels to slide open to allow fresh air and sunlight in; when in the closed position they create a water tight roof system which is much stronger than a conventional tent system. It is light weight and easy for one person to install by oneself. In addition, all component parts store flat unlike conventional tent systems with bunched up canvas and curved aluminum poles. I was so convinced, I placed my order for one. While a little expensive at $30,000, I figured I can also live in it when my wife kicks me out of the house for making such an obscene purchase.

Another interesting product which caught my eye was the "Don't Touch." This was a complete system of sensors, photoelectric eyes, touch pads, warning signs, and high voltage transformers. The "Don't Touch" is a high-tech electric stimulating device used to correct aberrant behavior. Have you ever had trouble with people touching your paintings or delicate sculptures even though you have a sign attached to the piece which clearly says "please don't touch!" It's like a magnet—everyone wants to know why they should not touch and so does so. Well, "Don't Touch" is a unique and patented system which solves this problem by reinforcing positive behavior and punishing miscreants. Simply put, anyone who touches one of your pieces will receive an electrical shock. The beauty of the system is that it can be run on either 12 volt DC like a car battery or on 120 volt AC like house current. The system is easy to set up and has a rheostat to allow the owner to control the amount of current in each shock. The system is completely water tight, UL approved, and been tested at the Supreme Court level as an acceptable means to protect one's merchandise. In addition, at night you can turn up the system to "high" to deter thieves. Like I said, everything is included, and for a package deal of $1,500, I could not turn this one down either.

The third item I purchased was a 3D imager. It allows the vendor to take a picture of someone in his or her tent, and then through some complicated computer technology, transform the digital information to a 3D molding machine. What pops out is a 3D bobble head doll in the likeness of the person captured by the camera. The process takes approximately three minutes, is fun to watch, draws huge crowds, and is definitely an impulse item. Selling at $25 each, with materials costing little more than $2 a head, I figured I had a license to print money with this one. I figured after a couple of quality art fairs, I would be able to pay for the purchase of my $18,000 head making machine. I have the only one folks—no competition means I get all the business. Again I am a bit reluctant to share such information for fear of losing market shares, but in the spirit of cooperation I decided to spill the beans.

The fourth item that I also think has huge potential, albeit a little gross, is shrunken heads on sticks. Now don’t get me wrong—these are not your cheap imitation Taiwanese imported shrunken heads. No sir-re-Bob! These are the "original" actual shrunken heads carefully prepared by a small and dying island tribe in the South Pacific. Don't ask me where they get the heads from. It's one of those "don't ask, don't tell" sort of things. There is of course a limited supply of them, which makes them somewhat rare, but they command a higher price at the fairs. Each comes mounted on a three foot custom carved stick of native exotic wood. This is a premium product and retails for $250. As an ancillary item, one can also order plaques. Each head is removable from the stick and easily slips onto the wall plaque. Cassette tapes and CDs are also available with native sounds best described as a cross between boiling water, drums, and chanting. I ordered 100 shrunken heads on a stick, 35 wall plaques, and 200 each of the cassette tapes and CDs. Oh, I forgot to mention that as an added bonus for anyone purchasing 100 heads or more, a "free" display stand is included which conveniently holds all the shrunken head on sticks in an upright position for ease of displaying them. I was also told that requests for female or male heads can't be honored. Each order is filled as it is received from available stock at the time but usually contains a mix of each.

So there you have it, the 2005 art fair season in a nut shell. I'm jazzed—I got a new tent, new merchandise, and a security system. So maybe this will be the year I finally make some money on the circuit.