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"The Independent Artist"
Issue IV, October 2008

The Independent Artist

NAIA Survey


For several years now, people who make a living by exhibiting their work at art and craft shows have expressed concerns about the market place. Preeminent in any discussion are declining sales and rising costs. Over the years other problems with the shows have been identified. The National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) has addressed many of these issues through the development of a series of Advocaciesa sort of Bill of Rightsand distributed these Advocacies to hundreds of shows throughout the country. These advocacies (see page 8) deal with everything from cancellation and refund policies to proxies, rule enforcement, and security. Many of these shows have now adopted some or all of these Advocacies.

However, problems do not simply vanish because a coalition of exhibitors insists on being treated in a certain way and some shows begin to comply. Many exhibitors express the uneasy feeling that the art show marketplace is in a state of disarray. On any given weekend conversations pop up between exhibitors at the shows, on internet forums dedicated to artist/craftspeople, and in trade publications that provide information about the shows. There is a perception amongst exhibitors that all shows, whether they are considered t be so-called top ranked events or those that fall into the middle of some ranking scheme, are not performing like they used to. Robust sales and a decent profit margin appear to be increasingly problematic. Another concern frequently heard is that profit margins are being squeezed by rising costs. As well, with increasing frequency complaints are expressed not only about the vagaries of the art/craft show market place, but about uncertainties related to getting accepted into shows. Some exhibitors are concerned that they are ending up on the sidelines due to the influx of buy-sell and/or highly derivative work, which is produced in other parts of the world.

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Zapp Team

The introduction of digital applications to the art fair industry has created significant efficiency for both shows and artists. Like any new process, it has also stirred a number of concerns. Greg Lawler, the author of an editorial that appeared on the front page of the NAIAs Indepent Artist (Summer 2007, issue no. three), considered a number of the concerns and rumors related to the use of ZAPPlication. While we respect Lawlers long-time service to the arts, we found several of his statements about ZAPP to be misleadingand others were simply incorrect. The ZAPP team would like to offer the following responses to several key points made by Lawler.

Lawler says, . . . each ZAPP jury viewing is supposed to take place by projection; unfortunately, some shows are viewing via monitor, and artists arent always apprised of this change. Lawlers assertion is untrue as well as misleading to readers. Art shows that use ZAPP are not required to jury using the available projection system. Each shows management selects its jurors and the type of image presentation process it prefers. ZAPP provides each show with instructions for adjusting monitors and projection settings so that artists images are viewed consistently and clearly by every juror. ZAPP encourages every show to be open with its artist applicants about how images will be displayed during the jury process. Contrary to Lawlers suggestion that there is something unfortunate about a jury process that involves viewing images on monitors, monitor-based jurying can be very consistent and high-quality in terms of image quality.

Lawler also suggests that the integrity of jurors of ZAPP shows is somehow compromised because of an alleged 15%-50% increase in overall show applications as a result of using ZAPP. While some shows have experienced an increase in applications as a result of using the ZAPP system, the average increase in applications has been nowhere near what is cited in Lawlers article and in fact has been less than 5% in most cases. Some shows using the ZAPP system have experienced a slight decline in applications. Therefore, ZAPP juries may experience an increase in images to review, but this increase is only substantial for a very small number of shows.

Lawler notes, With digital images it is easy to fool the jury with three or four that are tweaked in Photoshop to really POP for the jury, though they may no longer accurately represent the body of the work that will end up being displayed at the fair. While digital images may be more readily manipulated, images in all forms have always had the potential to be manipulated. Shows using the ZAPP system treat artists who compete unfairly by manipulating their images the same way they have always treated themif they are discovered, they are not allowed to return. In some cases where the difference of what has been presented to the jurors compared to what appears in the show, artists can be ejected from a show.

The art show world is indeed changing, and the introduction of digital imaging is certainly contributing to and accelerating the rate of that change. Artists and art shows can succeed in this changing worldbut to do so they need facts upon which to inform professional decisions. Lawlers article in the NAIA newsletter presents some good ideas, but falls short when it comes to the facts related to the ZAPP system. We hope the facts presented here dispel rumors about ZAPP as well as help artists navigate the rapidly changing art show world.

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