ArtExpo New York – The Show Must Go On

As a marketing vehicle, ArtExpo New York (AENY) show is a blackhole that consumes vast marketing dollars, promotional energy and both artist and publisher hopes. Quite simply, it dominates the industry it defines.

ArtExpo New York is the industry’s most important show

As a marketing vehicle, ArtExpo New York (AENY) show is a blackhole that consumes vast marketing dollars, promotional energy and both artist and publisher hopes. Quite simply, it dominates the industry it defines. If you are a print artist seeking to break a career, or propel an established one to the next level, you ignore AENY at a cost. If you crave national or international recognition and sales whether as a print publisher or self-representing artist, there is no better place to plant your flag.

Despite problems and smaller size AENY delivers

The historic 30th annual ArtExpo New York show concluded March 3, 2008 with approximately 25% fewer exhibitors than last year. Despite a conspicuous absence of many major industry players, reports are the show delivered images both visually exciting and commercially viable to the international gathering of art print dealers and gallerists who rely on it as the singular source for finding and viewing the best array of both established artists and newcomers. In other words, some exhibitors came away with surprising results well beyond their modest expectations, proving AENY can deliver from back on its heels.

AENY transcends ALL constituencies that rely on it

AENY may be down on its fortunes vis-à-vis past shows. However, it remains THE SOURCE for an industry struggling to define itself and its relevance in the dawning of the 21st Century’s digital age. Other shows may come and go, but the big show in the Big Apple remains the place to see and be seen if an artist or publisher seeks to expand distribution in one hugely important weekend. Observing AENY survive in hard times for the art print industry in particular and the economy in general, and with a revolving door of investment firm ownership with whom the art group has never been the primary economic engine or focus, testifies the show transcends ALL the constituencies that rely on it.

Further contractions will put the show on a slippery slope

There is no more quick fix to bring ArtExpo New York back to its former glory than there is to correct the current housing market debacle. A concerted effort from all sides is necessary. Putting the good of the industry ahead of bottom line thinking from all participants along with time to heal and adjust are required. Seeing the show contract to its sad 2008 size portends a bleak future on a slippery slope if things don’t turn around.

AENY’s contraction in size is beyond a show management problem

This is an industry problem that needs universal positive input to effect a change for the better. The reality every show management company faces is big old barn convention centers such as the Jacob Javits Center are specifically built to drive traffic, generate economic activity and increase tax revenue for the city. It’s a cold, cold world and convention center operators only welcome shows, especially on favorable dates, so long as they deliver. Past performance will not save the day. When it comes to what shows get in and when convention centers tend to take the famous Henry Ford saying to heart, "History is bunk."

Keeping the Javits and optimal dates is not a sure thing – room nights are the coin of the realm

Getting a first class venue such as the Javits at all, much less the best dates is always purely based on  what have you done for me lately and what will you deliver for me now. For convention center operators, room nights are the coin of the realm. Once a show starts to lose critical mass in its exhibitor base, it makes it more and more difficult to deliver on the promise of room nights and enough exhibitor dollars to pay to produce the show. The trend AENY forecasts is one that could easily see it unceremoniously bounced from the Javits. There is no viable alternative in Manhattan or anywhere else that offers the same impact. Anyone who would debate this is either ill-informed or delusional.

Can you imagine our industry without AENY?

Despite its long term preeminence and good results posted by some exhibitors this year, the show appears to be cracking at the seams from the continuing loss of its constituent base of exhibitors and dealers. It is time to ask the entire industry to shake off whatever problems it has with the show and to come together to turn the tide and make the 2009 into something special. The alternative is bleak. If you think it can’t happen consider this year alone AENY’s owner has canceled the Spring Decor Expo show in Baltimore and the Art DC show due to lack of exhibitor support.

Show success is not based on management and exhbitor activity

If you are an attendee/buyer and think it is not important for you to participate and come open to buy at shows you like, you’re dead wrong. Your support demonstrated through the strength of your pocketbook is the defining factor in any show’s success. In other words, if you like the idea of the show, you have to invest in it. Your activity is the gauge exhibitors use to decide to come back and to talk it up to other exhibitors on the fence.

Tradeshows such as ArtExpo live and die on word-of-mouth – Critical mass keeps the WOM buzz going

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is a crucial component to the success of a show. Critical mass is another such component. To paraphrase Edna Ferber, "There has to be enough there there." If the trend in the past few years’ decline is disappointing, the critical mass contraction we are seeing today is downright disturbing. The show has to have enough drawing power to bring in buyers and marginal exhibitors. It needs to have enough exhibitors to encourage show management to make the expensive bet to continue to sign lease agreements and take on hotel room blocks.

The industry needs to come together to reinvigorate AENY

As it has throughout its history, the collective importance of ArtExpo New York surpasses the individual needs of those who attend, exhibit, manage and own it. Imagining the industry without an ArtExpo New York show to bring together the best and brightest exhibitors, dealers and galleries is hard to comprehend. It’s time for all who have a stake in the future of the art print market as markedly defined by AENY over the past 30 years to come together and make something happen for their own good, for the good of the industry.

Leadership from AENY’s corporate owner is paramount

For the sake of the industry, the principals at Summit Business Media LLC, owners of AENY, need to let the industry know its plans and take to a leadership role in beginning a years long process of restoring AENY to its former glory. Should such a gesture be genuinely put forth, it should likewise be rightfully embraced by current, former and future exhibitors who stand to benefit from a renewed effort to turn the show’s fortune’s around. As the old show biz saying goes: "The show must go on."

Take a personal interest – get involved – it’s your show and your future

If you believe and buy into the argument here, comment below, and more importantly forward this email to others who you think would be severely impacted by further decline in the fortunes of AENY. You can quickly forward this post using the Share This link just below.

Hopefully together we can generate a groundswell of interest that will lead to actions to help keep this most important of shows from failing when we can least afford for that to happen. Let any and all know what your concerns are and ask them to get involved to communicate with their contacts at SBMedia, important exhibitors and other leaders within the art print community to bring their influence to bear on the show’s future fortunes.

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