Researched and Presented by the ASFA Art Show Liaison Committee: Jan Sherrell Gephardt, Christine Mansfield, Ingrid Neilson, jan howard finder, Jon Gustafson

Collated, Written and Edited by Richard Pini

1995 Revision by Joni Brill Dashoff and Barbara Lynn Higgins


We would like to make sure you receive updates to this booklet as they become available. Please take a moment and let us know that you have a copy of the Guidelines, and you will be placed on a list to receive updated material. Send your name and address to the current Secretary as listed in the most recent ASFA Quarterly or Membership Directory.

If you would like information on joining ASFA, send a request along with a stamped, self- addressed envelope to the current Membership Secretary.

Thank you


This is the third edition of the Guidelines. The second edition appeared in September of 1987. The first Guidebook, four small pages of suggestions, was printed and distributed to all ASFA members, as well as to as many art show committees and artists who expressed an interest.

Since then, however, the level of artists' awareness of the potential problems of art shows (as well as the artists' willingness to speak out about those problems) has risen dramatically. The last twenty years have brought about an unprecedented shift in the public's perception of science fiction and fantasy. Artist are more aware than ever of the market for their work and the benefits of professional exposure. Large or small, conventions play an important part in the life of the science fiction and fantasy artist.

As conventions themselves have grown and evolved, reflecting changing trends in entertainment and economy, so must the art shows that are a part of those conventions. An artist, after creating something unique, expects that the art show will do justice by him/her. While guarantees that art show problems will be solved may be difficult for the committee to extend, they are not impossible. It is to the solving of those problems that these guidelines are directed.

It would have been impossible to put together a piece of work this size without help. Lots of it. For the second edition, special thanks go to the members of the ASFA art show committee, and particularly to Jan Sherrell Gephardt, who provided Richard Pini with much commentary. Also, Erin McKee, Chere Raiti, Teresa Patterson, jan howard finder, E. Pascal Gephardt, Jr., and Diana Gallegher, all of whom have been heavily involved in the running of successful art shows, were generous with their insights.

This third edition was amended by Joni Brill Dashoff and Barbara Lynn Higgins, Philcon Art Show Directors, in September of 1994. Special thanks go to Todd Cameron Hamilton, Jan Sherrell Gephardt, and Elayne Pelz.


ASFA recognizes that it is as difficult to come up with a single set of art show guidelines that can apply as well to all conventions as it is to come up with a single recipe for chili. First of all, conventions come in different sizes. A World Science Fiction Convention may have an attendance or six to ten thousand people and be spread out over several major hotels plus convention center. A regional convention may attract two to five thousand attendees, and use one or more hotels. Local conventions may be set up for anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred people. Each convention has its strengths and limitations.

Also, there is no standard of convention "philosophy" (for want of a better word). Some conventions are run as profit-making endeavors, some as nonprofit or charitable operations. Some are run as serious businesses, some as a lark. Some conventions, unfortunately, lose money. How each responds to concerns of an economic nature--and art shows certainly are that--varies according to the mindset of the convention and art show committees.

You, the art show director, are reading these words for any number of reasons. Perhaps you're interested in learning what others have done in the past. Maybe you seek a specific bit of advice, or perhaps you're brand new at putting on an art show and want all the help you can get.

We hope you won't be disappointed.

ASFA has attempted, in these guidelines, to take into account those factors that make a large convention different from a small one. We know that no single document can be all things to all people. There may even be information in here with which you disagree, but we hope that you'll take note of all the variations presented here and then make realistic choices that will best suit your own convention and art show.

Please note that ASFA is an organization of information, not of enforcement. These Guidelines are exactly that: guidelines and suggestions. There is nothing here that demands that you follow them. However, these guidelines do have the endorsement of the artists that you do wish to have exhibit in your show. It is their artistry, not the inner workings of the committee, that ultimately attracts viewers and buyers. ASFA regularly reviews convention art shows, good and bad, within the pages of its quarterly newsletter. If artists learn to avoid your show, where does that leave you, the committee and the convention? Think about it.

Use this information. Take as much as you can utilize. If these Guidelines help you, pass the information along about them (and ASFA). As always, we welcome your comments.


It is your responsibility and, we hope, desire to let the art community know that your show exists. There are many ways to do this, such as through direct mailings, flyers at conventions, and general advertising. ASFA suggests that you take advantage of every method that time, budget and person-power allow.

Planning is everything. Art show requires extensive pre-planning, is labor-intensive at- con, and also requires post-con accounting. Be forewarned: this will require six months of your life.

In preparation of this section we have taken suggestions from a number of art show directors and tabulated them in a way that we hope will be useful.

As soon as you know you're running the show:

*Begin listing the particulars of how you want the show to run.

*Find out how much exhibition space you have and create a layout of tables for 3-D art and panels for 2-D.

*Coordinate with other con committee people.

*Talk to the other art show directors.

*Reread this booklet!

*Work out your budget.

Four to six months before the show:

*Have your forms and rules written, designed and printed, ready to send out. Also obtain copies of the convention's flyers, complete with con and hotel registration information.

*Create your mailing list of artists. Verify addresses. Begin contacting artists.

*Prepare yourself to answer questions; have an efficient system in place.

Four to five months before the show:

*Send invitational mailing with rules, con flyer, and space reservation form.

*Reply to requests for information and confirm reservations and payment for display space as promptly as possible. There is no reason why most correspondence can't be answered within two weeks of its receipt!

Two to four months:

*Contact your auctioneer(s) and get commitment(s) from him/her/them.

*Do a floor plan and assign display space (first come, first served basis works best).

*Stay in touch with the con committee. Put in your reservations for time (programming auction(s), reception, etc.). Work closely with the convention hotel liaison regarding room space, lighting, etc.

*Mail control sheets and bid sheets to mail-in and attending artists.

*Create award certificates/ribbon order.

One month before the show:

*Check your supply of forms; reprint if necessary.

*Reconfirm all your volunteers and auctioneer(s).

*If you need to build new panels, now is the time. Also make sure you have twice as many hooks, bulldog clips, and other hanging materials as you think you will need (one estimate is 20 hooks per 4x4 foot pegboard panel).

*Visit the con hotel. Check your show space and lighting; determine whether or not you'll need extra.

*If you're have an artists' reception, check with the hotel catering to make sure everything is set.

*Make sure of treasury supplies for art show sales/print shop, including phone line if you are accepting payment by credit card.

Two weeks before the show:

*Check control table supplies; restock as needed.

*Pick up awards.

*Double check the hangings, especially if they've been in storage.

*Confirm transportation and delivery of hangings the day before the con opens.

*Make sure your volunteers will be there to help move and set up (food and beverages are an excellent incentive).

One week before the show:

*Collect all mail-in art. Enter all art information onto your forms or control books, if not already completed by the artist.

*Double check anything from earlier lists that still needs a follow-up.

The first day of the convention (usually Friday):

*Arrive at the hotel as early as possible and get your crew to work! You want to have the panels up and mail-in art hung before walk-in art arrives.

*If you plan an artists' reception, most cons hold it this night.

Second day of the con (usually Saturday):

*This is the day to have the judges look at the art for awards; the people and the art are available.

*The auction may be held late today or early tomorrow afternoon.

*If you have an auction or masquerade in the evening, you can announce the art awards.

Last day of the con (usually Sunday):

*This is the day for final sales and auction (if not done Saturday).

*This is art check-out day. Be prepared for artists who need to check out early to make travel connections.

*Take down the display and pack mail-in art in the original boxes as carefully as possible; this saves time and effort in the days to come.

*Dismantle the hangings and return to storage.

*If possible, complete the bookkeeping. Keep all the records (sales slips, bid sheets, control sheets) together until all artists have been paid.

The week after the con:

*Remind the treasurer that the artists' checks need to go out and make a date to do it.

*Reconcile the books within four weeks. The time required to do this increases with the size of the show.

*Address envelopes to the artists so that when the checks arrive you'll be able to send them out immediately. Do this yourself to make sure it's done. Have copies of the control sheets ready to send, whether with the checks or with the mailed back art. The artist needs these, so don't skimp.

*If you haven't repacked unsold mail-in art yet, do it now. Mail the unsold art back as soon as possible; you're tying up the artist's inventory if you don't.


Along with letting artists know of the art show's existence, we recommend that you consider advertising to the general public as well. Because there is a greater awareness of science fiction and fantasy these days, your art show's attendance (as well as the host convention's) could be supplemented by public walk-ins. Make sure that the art show is featured on the convention's flyers and general advertisements.

You might also want to take a hand in the scheduling of programmed events, adding art- related panels, discussions and workshops (hands-on demonstrations are particularly interesting) that may entice some people into stopping in who don't yet know they're interested in art and the art show.

ASFA recognizes that some members of the general public might not wish to pay the entry fee for the entire convention. However, if there is a way for the art show and the convention reasonably to admit walk-ins, perhaps for a reduced or even no fee, only to the art show, ASFA recommends the idea as a novel method of increasing exposure to the artwork and potentially generating sales.

Above all, however, your best advertisement is the happy artists and art buyers who leave your show at its conclusion.


There are certain basic things that artists need to know in order to make the decision whether to display at your art show: all entry requirements, fees, rules, procedures for reserving exhibit space, other useful information; the dates, times and procedures for artwork check-in (including shipping art) and check-out.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of a smoothly-run art show i s lack of adequate communication between the art show committee and the artists. What the artist knows of the structure of the show is what s/he learns from the forms and rules you send out. You must be aware of two factors working against you.

First, it is an unfortunate fact of life that not everyone reads what is given to him/her to read. This includes art show rules. There is very little you can do about this.

Second, some art show rules are badly written, which makes for confusion even if the artist does read them. There is something you can do about this problem.

Art show rules, forms and information must be two things: complete and clear. Make certain that everything that needs to be spelled out is spelled out, so that if an artist asks halfway through the show about this or that, any show staff member can point to the appropriate answer. At the same time, keep the information short, sweet, and to the point. The less room you allow for ambiguity, the less confusion there will be.

After the rules have been compiled by the committee, they should be edited for clarity by someone capable of cleaning up run-on sentences, confusing references, and the like. Leave your ego at the door; you may think you're a fine writer (and you may be right) but it does no good to send out information that could cause an artist to interpret "A" when you mean "B"!

Make sure that the dates of the convention are right at the top of the list of rules--as well as on all other forms and flyers that are sent out.

Be sure to let the artist know that photography of the show will not be allowed (see"Photography").

Put your full name and some way to reach you (a phone number is best) on the rules sheets so that artists can reach you if need be. We all know how mail can get lost in transit, and the artist will want to know if his/her art has arrived safely (among other things). Be prepared to field a lot of letters and phone calls--in a timely way.

ASFA also recommends that the artist be required to sign a disclaimer, placed on the art control sheet, that s/he has read and understood the rules of the art show.


ASFA does not support jurying or prejudging as a means of deciding which artists or artworks to include in the show. Since a convention art show may be an artists only means of displaying his/her art, there should be no restrictions (other than those which apply to all artists, such as panel fees, etc.) on his/her ability to display work.

The main art show at a convention should be open to all; it should not be "by invitation". However, if you wish to set up areas within the show for professional and amateur displays, this is acceptable. Also, if you wish to administer secondary shows of exhibits that are by invitation only or that are juried or that serve as a special function, this is also acceptable.


Censorship of art and the rights of artists to free expression are at the center of a debate that has raged for years and which shows no signs of abating. Perhaps more than any other topic in these guidelines, the question of censorship involves not only the art show, but the convention itself and the community in which it is located.

ASFA is strongly opposed to the art show's rejection of any artwork unless the work is (a) unsafe, (b) plagiarized or otherwise actionable, or (c) not of science fiction, fantasy or fannish nature. Original works (see also "Prints and Reproductions") should not be prohibited from exhibition because of subject matter under any circumstances.

However, we recognize the convention's obligations to the community in which it is located. We realize that your art show committee must be aware of community standards of acceptability of subject matter and/or presentation, as these standards may place a work into an "actionable" category, or subject you, the art show, and the convention to unwanted problems.

As art show director, you're usually the final arbiter. Please exercise good judgement in balancing freedom of expression versus legal obligations by the administering convention committee.


It should be stated clearly in any rules, information or forms sent to the artist that the sale of a piece of artwork in no way transfers to the purchaser any rights other than the right of possession to the physical artwork. It should also be make clear that it is the artist's responsibility to oversee any other rights.(See "Copyright").


Copyright in any artwork resides with the creator of the artwork until the copyright is transferred to someone else by means of a legally binding contract.

Some bid or information sheets have in the past contained a line for the artist to check which reads in effect:

"Publication rights sold with this artwork ___Yes ___No."

This is not a binding release and certainly not a valid transfer of copyright. Any line like this must be left off an any paperwork relating to the artwork; it could make the convention liable in a lawsuit.

If the artist wishes it known that s/he is willing to negotiate certain publication rights with the purchaser, a line on the bid or information sheet which reads:

"Publishing rights negotiable (or available) ___Yes ___No."

is acceptable.


Some processes for creating artistic images (such as xerography, etched plate, cast metal, photography, lithography and serigraphy, among others) are inherently capable of creating more than one "work." One may start off with a unique master image (example; an oil painting) which then is reproduced by the process of lithoprinting into many copies, or one may create multiple pieces by a process in which there is no true master (example: an edition of serigraphs where the only "masters" are the silk-screens).

ASFA recognizes that many artists may devote their entire effort to producing artwork which is presented in multiple copy editions. We acknowledge that artists who create unique original works may only be able to produce a small number of works in the course of the year, and that the sale of reproductions of these works can represent a large fraction of the artist's income (this is something you can see even in very prestigious galleries--the proportion of reproductions to originals is high). Transporting original works can be more difficult, due to their greater bulk and potential fragility. Also, for many art buyers, a reproduction of an art work is the only affordable (or even available) option.

ASFA does not support the exclusion, for any reason whatever, of multiple or secondary reproductions, in any medium, which are signed and numbered by the artist, so long as only one copy of the work is entered in the show. If multiple copies of the work are available at the convention, however, (in the dealer's room or print shop, for example--see the article "Running a Print Shop At A Con"), you may require that such pieces of art be sold by direct sale rather than competitive bid at auction, or that the pieces simply carry information that copies are available elsewhere.

Metal, stone, or ceramic sculptures need not be signed or numbered on the work, but the artist must indicate on the bid or information sheet whether the work is unique or one of a multiple edition of the work. Photographs must be signed but need not be numbered, in keeping with conventional practices. Computer assisted or video art should be considered original art. It may be unique or multiple depending on the final medium and number.

You may elect to exclude any multiple copy artwork which is not clearly labeled as such, or which could mislead a purchaser into thinking that the work is unique when it is not.

(As part of these Guidelines, the article "How You Can Tell A Print From A Print" by Jan Sherrell Gephardt has been reprinted from the Autumn 1986 issue of the ASFA Quarterly. It may be found at the end of the Guidelines.


Some art show directors do not accept mail-in art. Others welcome it. Ultimately, you must judge what is appropriate for your show.

However, ASFA encourages you to allow mail-in art, as this leads to greater diversification of the show. Many professional artists, whose schedules do not allow them to attend every convention, send art; this can help generate healthy sales for the show as well.

We do not recommend that there be a separate mail-in fee (or, for that mater, that artists be forced to buy a convention membership in order to send art). Yes, mail-in art makes extra work for your staff, but if you decide to accept mail-ins, you've decided they're worth having in the show--and thus, worth the effort.

Again, good communication is a must. Provide a name, street address and phone number so the artist has a touchstone to contact. You should make sure that the artist has copies of whatever forms s/he needs. Then it becomes the artist's responsibility (make sure the artist knows this in advance!) To provide completed paperwork, a hanging schematic, all fees and materials, and postage for the return of unsold art.

There are many ways to get artwork to an art show; some are better than others.

The best and safest way to transport artwork is for the artist or an agent to carry it to the show. This is not always possible, so you should provide the artist with as much information as possible on carriers, packing and so forth so that s/he can make an informed decision. UPS, Federal Express, and other carriers are viable alternatives to the U.S. Postal Service. You should provide a street address (it need not be yours, but it must be reliable) to which carriers other than the Postal Service can deliver artwork, and you should make sure that there is someone there to receive parcels.

If you do know of quirks in a given delivery system, be sure to include this information in the initial packet you send to the artist. Remember to give the artist a phone number to call in case of questions or problems.

We recommend that you send a postcard or other acknowledgment of receipt to the artist when the art comes in to you. You should also let the artist know if his/her parcel has been delivered in a damaged condition; This allows the artist to put in an immediate claim to the carrier and removes any question that the art may have been damaged while in your care.

The art show rules must make it clear that it is the artist's responsibility to provide materials and costs for the return shipping of the art. This includes return insurance (the show rules should mention this, as it's easy to forget).

If the artist has done an adequate job of packing the art to get it to you, you should use the original material to pack the art to get it back. Pack tight. Observe how things were arranged when the container arrived and you first opened it. You can also check with a local gallery or framing shop for tips on the best way to package artwork.

All unsold art to be returned to the artist should be shipped within two weeks of the close of the show. Be sure to include a copy of the control sheet if one hasn't already been sent with the artist's payment check, as well as the names and addresses of the buyers of the art. Also, don't forget to send the award if the artist has won one!


Given that in any art show only a minority of artists will realize a large profit, ASFA's position on fees and commissions is that they should be as palatable to the artist as possible. We do not believe that the art show should be looked upon by the convention as a fund raiser to make up the difference if the rest of the convention loses money.

In a certain sense, the art show is neither fish nor fowl. It is neither wholly a retail function like the dealer's room, nor wholly a programming function like a panel or films. Rather, it is a bit of both. On the one hand, artists hope to sell artwork, and on the other, viewers come to be "entertained".

There is another difference, however, between the art show and all other convention functions--a financial one. Considered as a programming event, the art show is the only such (aside from a banquet, if there is one) where the users of the space(the artists) must pay for that use. The film goers, the panelists, the gamers do not pay for the rooms they use; the convention does. Conversely, considered as a retailer, the artist not only pays a fee for his/her space, but also a percentage of sales in the form of a commission. The dealer in the dealer's room pays a table fee only once, no matter how much s/he sells.

ASFA recognizes that there is great potential for inequity in the fee and commission structure currently used by most art shows. Certainly you need to cover your costs as do all other functions of the convention. However, placing a disproportionate financial burden on the artist is not the answer.

Because the needs of every art show are different, ASFA cannot give a simple formula for determining how much to charge for hanging space and what size commission to levy on each sale. We can, however, offer the following, suggested by many artists, as starting points:

* Large flat-rate entry fees penalize the majority of artists who may sell little at the art show. Even though the fee may seem reasonable at first, it can translate by show's end into a substantial "commission rate" for these artists. If hanging fees are necessary at all, keep them modest.

*A straight commission on sales is more equitable than a large initial fee, except to those artists who sell a lot of art. This structure, in effect, penalizes an artist for doing well. A solution to this is to levy a commission on sales up to a certain amount, and then to dispense with the commission. In this way, no artist pays more than a stated maximum amount ("capped commission").

*The art show should not charge extra for "Not For Sale" pieces, even though these artworks will generate no commission. If the artist has paid a panel fee, s/he is entitled to exhibit what s/he desires. Remember: artists attend your show not only to sell work, but also to be seen by peers and other professionals, and for ego gratification. Your show must not pre-censor art by means of financial penalties on work that is not for sale.

The commission an sales charged by most art shows is 10%. Some shows charge 15% but no hanging fee. A currently proposed alternative is the combination of panel fee and 10% commission. The panel fee is credited toward the total commission, which has a pre-determined cap.


The art show display area should be large enough to hold the stated number of panels and to afford enough space for viewers to be comfortable while walking and looking at art. The art show should be housed in one room; if this is not possible, the art rooms should be next to each other. It is your responsibility, in concert with the convention committee (which rents the hotel), to weigh many factors--what size room is available? How many artists do we wish to have exhibit? What resources do we have available in the way of hangings, table, etc.?--and to come up with a realistic art show setup. It is your responsibility to avoid overcrowding and last minute changes in the display area; it is your responsibility to make sure that everything is ready before the show opens for artist setup. This includes hanging panels, tables, lighting, floor, all signs and paperwork, and staff. Make certain that the hotel has done its part in preparing the space (floors clean? Rugs vacuumed? all lights working?). This ma y sound like a burden, but artists are merciless (and understandably so, given some of the art show foul-ups of recent years!) In their criticisms; remember how important work of mouth can be!

You should be receptive to the idea that certain artists may wish to buy "raw space" and bring their own display materials in lieu of using the hangings and lighting provided by the art show. While there are many factors to be considered in allowing individual artists to provide their own materials (is there room? Is there sufficient electrical access? Will the hotel allow it? Are there union considerations?) It has been shown, at least in some larger art shows, that these independent displays are a handsome, attractive addition to the show.


Whenever possible, the layout and hangings of artwork should be determined and done by the artist. In fact, you should let the artist know that his/her participation in this aspect of the show is welcomed and solicited. Once the artist has hung the work, the show should not move the work to another location without the artist's permission and presence. When the artist (or agent) cannot be present to hang work, the art show should provide qualified people to handle the task, following the artist's layout recommendations if such have been provided.

Once the artwork has been hung or otherwise displayed, the art show staff should cross check to make sure that each piece displayed has been entered correctly on the control and bid sheets. These forms should be provided by the art show but filled out by the artist him/herself. Both the artist and the staff member should sign the control sheet to finalize the check-in procedure.

You should communicate to the artist, at the times the rules and forms go out, the nature of the panel hangings and types of display space that are available.

The two most common types of panel hanging are burlap (or other strong cloth) and pegboard, both of which are attached to frames. The frames must be of sufficient strength to withstand heavily framed paintings, but should not be of such construction as to cast shadows on the art. If burlap is used on frames, it must be secured at the top of the frame so that it does not sag under the weight hung on it, and it is recommended that burlap not be used to hang heavy works of art. If pegboard is used, you might consider painting it a neutral color to present a more pleasant background for the art.

It is your responsibility to provide sufficient hooks and/or clips for the hanging of art, although the artist should see to it that all art to be hung is properly matted or framed or otherwise ready to be hung. However many hooks, etc. you've bought, it probably won't be enough, so make sure you can get more at an instant's notice.

While it is not ASFA's place to say to you that you must procure certain amounts or certain types of hanging and other display materials, we do insist that you let the artist know exactly what materials and resources are available to him/her in the art show, so that s/he may make an informed decision whether or not to attend and which works to bring, and so on.


The artist has every right to expect that his/her work will be able to be viewed to advantage by everyone who attends your art show. ASFA recognizes that the facilities available to each convention and art show are different. However, the art show does tend to be one of the premier attractions of any convention and as such, deserves the best in the way of room and lighting that are available. We strongly recommend that you pay particular attention to the show room, the layout of the display areas (see "Display Area") and the light available to every display surface. No art should be hung in shadow. You cannot assume that artists will bring their own lights to correct a bad lighting situation (even though some artists do so). You are strongly encouraged to check out the show room lighting ahead of time and add supplementary lighting as necessary.

At no time should any artwork be situated so that sunlight falls on it. Any light will eventually cause most types of artistic media to fade, but sunlight hastens the process tremendously; certain types of watercolor and dye will fade after only a few hours in sunlight.


In a very real way, your staff can make or break your show--and yet it can be difficult to assemble and keep a group of competent people. Try to get commitments from as many people as you think you need (or more, as you know that people will drop out, get sick, forget, etc.) as far ahead of time as you can. Always be on the lookout for replacements.

All art show staff members, particularly gofers and other volunteers, should be well trained in handling both people and artwork, familiar with the art show guidelines, and knowledgeable about the particulars of the art show's procedures. The staff should maintain a professional demeanor and appearance at all times. This doesn't mean suits; all it means is be neat and courteous--since it is a given that pressures will build. You should make sure that someone with the authority to make decisions is on duty in the show at all times.

Particularly at times of check-in, auction and check-out, you should have extra help on hand. No one wants to wait in line to be helped by a frazzled or even surly staffer who is the only one handling half a dozen tasks.

You should be aware of the fact that many of the people who do help out are volunteers. Offering a free or discounted convention membership or other benefit (such as snacks and beverages) will go a long way toward getting and keeping reliable help.

If you are just starting out, you will probably be wondering how many staffers you need. The answer depends in large part on the size of your show and the record keeping system you've adopted, but you can estimate by considering the following tasks. You'll need:

*People to help bring in mail-in art, to help set up the display area, and to take down the display area at the end of the con.

*Desk workers to check in art, handle sales, and check out art. You'll have to delegate command responsibilities here.

*Art hangers who can put up the mail-in art, and who know how to handle art.

*Badge checkers to make sure that people going in to the show are supposed to--and who can double as roving security.

*Auction workers, clerks and runners. Coordinate this one with your auctioneer.


The art control sheet is the most important piece of paper that the art show uses. It records information about the artist, the agent (if there is one), every piece of art in the art show, and most importantly for reasons of accountability, the value of each piece of art, expressed either as a minimum bid or a not-for-sale value. It is imperative that you and your staff make certain that each artist has completely filled out his/her control sheet before allowing art to be hung in the show. For ease of processing, try to get the artist to fill out the control sheet before the art arrives, whether it is brought in or mailed in.

Three part NCR forms are invaluable for tracking all transactions. The bottom copy goes to the artist after check-in, the middle to the artist with payment after con, and the top is retained by the art show management for their records.


The bid sheet, which is attached to each piece of art in contention for a place in the voice auction, must be simple and clear. It should indicate the name of the artist, the title of the artwork, the control number of the piece, and the medium in which the art was executed. It should indicate the minimum bid, if any, and "quick sale" or other sales information (see "Sales"). It should contain room only for however many bidder names need to bring a piece of art to voice auction. a line may be included to indicate whether other rights to the art (such as publishing rights) are available or negotiable. A two-part NCR form for the bid sheet may be useful. The top copy always stays with the art until payment is received from the buyer, but the bottom copy may be detached and used for computer data entry.

ASFA recommends that every person who wishes to bid on artwork in the show register with the show staff. The staffers should take the bidder's name and address, and assign a bidding number (which may be the person's badge number) which the bidder writes after his/her name on the bid sheet. Your staff should also make certain that each bidder knows that s/he is financially responsible for his/her bid; that the placing of a bid on a bid sheet constitutes a contract between the bidder and the art show. Having each bidder sign a statement signifying that s/he understands this will help you out in case of a dispute. It's also a good idea to insist that the bidder use a real name (not a fannish name) on the bid sheet, along with the assigned bidder number. The art show may provide a form for the bidder to record his bidder number and his prospective purchases/bids for his personal record; the bid sheet is the legitimate record. Inform the bidders when and where they are to pay for and pick up those artwo rks they have successfully bid on, either on paper or at voice auction. The simplest location is in the art show as soon after close-out and the voice auction as possible. Two-part sales forms are recommended.


It is not currently within the scope of these guidelines to offer advice on how to run an auction or be an effective auctioneer. However, there are some points relating to the auction as part of the art show that bear stating.

Be in touch with and get a commitment from your auctioneer(s) well ahead of time.

You must not announce an auction for one time and they try to change it to another. No matter how hard you and your staff may try to alert everyone concerned (including a convention full of potential buyers), you will fail, and the resulting confusion will be deadly. Choose the time of the auction (or auctions), establish the bidding and close-out times, and stick to them.

The auction is one of the events that people enjoy going to. Do not schedule it opposite other popular events, or at inconvenient times--this makes no sense financially and does a disservice both to the artists and the membership of the convention itself. Keep the auction time to one to two hours. Use the bid sheet for as much of the bidding war per item as possible because it will take about 2 minutes per item in the voice auction, which translates into approximately 30 pieces being auctioned per hour. You must not announce "X" amount written bids required to take a piece to auction and then change it just to get more pieces in the voice auction.

Auctioneers should speak clearly, at a reasonable pace, and not demean the artwork/artist/bidder audience.

The periods immediately before and after the auction are hectic times for your staff, and they are also the times when artwork runs the greatest risk of damage as it is moved from art room to auction room. Use a multi-tiered cart, such as those available from the banquet staff, to move the art. Make certain that your staff is versed in handling art and that you have enough people to work the auction (clerks and runners).

Establish an auction payment policy at the beginning and stick to it. ASFA recommends that purchased artwork be left on display until show closing so that viewers may see as complete a show as possible.


The art show exists as a means for the exhibiting artist to sell artwork. To this end, you should do everything you can to facilitate the sales process.

In addition to sales of artwork at voice auction, there are several other ways in which artwork can be sold. These are: highest bid, quick sale, after-auction sale, minimum bid sale, and direct sale.

Highest bid: If a piece does not receive enough bids to take it to voice auction at close- out, the highest bidder on the bid sheet automatically wins the piece at the bid amounts. It is the responsibility of your staff to note and secure these high bids at close-out to avoid some other bidder entering a spurious "higher" bid.

Quick sale and after-auction: The opportunity to allow a quick sale, an after-auction sale, or both (since they are different) may be provided to the artist by the art show. (These options must be stated clearly in the initial information sent out to the artist). They allow the artist to suggest a price, higher than the minimum bid, for which s/he will sell a given piece of art (a) at any time, in the case of the quick sale, or (b) after the auction, if the piece has not prior claims. They represent a kind of gamble on the artist's part, since s/he is saying in effect, "I may make more if this piece goes to voice auction, but it may not go. I take the chance that I will make as much at a quick sale or after-auction as I might make at an auction."

There is one catch to quick sale and after-auction sale, however, that the art show staff must beware. It must be clear to all buyers that the quick sale and after-auction options disappear when any bid is placed on a bid sheet. Such a bid represents a commitment on the part of one person to purchase the art via the bidding process. To allow a quick sale to another person after that time cheats the original bidder.

Minimum bid sale: a fourth type of sale occurs when the artist allows art that has received no bids to be sold after the voice auction (or after some other specified time) at the minimum bid price. As with the quick sale and after-auction sale options, this must be clearly indicated on the bid sheet.

Generally, either quick sale/after auction sale or minimum bid sale is allowed, but not both; having both makes no sense financially to the artist, as it encourages prospective buyers to avoid the bidding process in the hope of buying the piece after auction at the lower, minimum bid price. For that reason if nothing else, ASFA discourages the use of the minimum bid sale.

Direct Sale: Finally, there is the direct sale: no bids, no conditions on price. This method is generally used on pieces which are from multiple editions (see "Prints and Reproductions").

Again, ASFA recommends that, no matter when a piece of artwork is purchased, it be left on display in the show until show closes (unless it is one of several copies of a print or reproduction in the print shop, and other copies remain on display).


Winning bidders must pay for their artwork. Cash, check or credit card are the norm, utilizing a two part sales form for record keeping. Payment may be made after "close-out" by the staff and concurrent with/after a Sunday voice auction. You will want the art out of the panel display area before tear-down and staff departure. Ideally, the payment area should be set up inside the art show, at or near the exit. Packaging materials, such as plastic bags, bubble wrap, and cartons should be located outside the exit of the payment area or art show proper.


Your art show can contain artwork valued at many tens of thousands of dollars. Beyond that, however, it may be said that every piece of artwork is valuable in some way to someone. One of the art show's most important functions is to provide security for the artwork. This must be attended to in two different ways for two different times: when the show is open and when it is closed.

When the art show is open to viewing, many people pass through. Your security staff has several responsibilities. First, door guards (badge checkers) must make sure that only those people (convention attendees, artists and guests, legitimate newspeople, etc.) who have the right to go into the art show do go in. Second, it is security's responsibility to deter unauthorized photography in the art show room (see "Photography"),vandalism and theft.

Ideally there should be only one entrance/exit to the art show. It should be attended by as many security people as necessary to maintain a smooth movement of viewers in and out.

Many con attendees carry cameras and/or large bags, backpacks, purses or the like, and security staffers must be aware of the potential for photography and theft that is represented. The committee should have already provided coat racks elsewhere. Security people must also, however, be aware that they cannot alienate art show viewers who may then decide not to see the show at all! These people represent sales that have been lost forever and diminished goodwill toward the hosting convention.

Several methods to minimize or eliminate this potential have been used at times: "sacking" bags and cameras, searching bags and packs as the attendees leave the art show, checking all bags and cameras at the door, and lastly barring entry to anyone with bags or cameras.

The first method is "sacking." By "sacking" whatever the attendee carries into the art show room (that is, placing bags, purses, cameras, etc. into an inexpensive plastic or brown paper sack and stapling the sack shut) you allow the attendee to keep his/her property with him/her, and also insure against photography and theft. A sack that has been opened will be obvious to exit security people and the attendee should be asked to wait while the sack is checked.

A second method that is acceptable is to allow attendees to carry bags, purses, etc., into the art show unimpeded, and then to check walk-outs. A gain, this allows the attendee to keep his/her property. One drawback is that it can create a bottleneck at the exit, so this method should be used advisedly. Another drawback is that it can generate resentment; at lease let people going in know about the search.

You may choose to ask that all bags and cameras be checked at the door, especially if you have narrow aisles. Experience has shown that some people may not want to give up their valuables; be prepared to offer the other options as an alternative rather than insisting that your method is the only method.

We do not recommend that art show security require that the attendees who carry bags and cameras be turned away. We say this not because it is not a valid security method, but because experience has shown that it can put people off. One of the primary reasons for art shows is to sell art, and ASFA cannot recommend any security method which might turn buyers away if there are other methods that are as effective.

A further option that has been used to good effect is to have roving security personnel in the art show. If you can come up with a sufficient number of people who circulate around the art show room keeping any eye on things, sacking and bag checks and/or searches may be deemed optional.

Regardless of how you deal with the bag issue, cameras should be sacked to protect artist's copyright. There should be no photography or video recording of any kind by fans, press or artist/agents unless 1) the artist or agent consents and is present during the photography, and 2) the Art Show Director has been consulted in advance so an art show staff person can also be present during the photography.

When the art show is closed, only art show and security staff should be allowed in the show room. No exhibiting artist should have need to be in the art room outside of set-up, breakdown and viewing hours.

During set-up, only art show staff and exhibiting artists (and their designated agents or helpers) should be allowed in the art show room. Anyone else in the room (fans, hotel personnel) creates not only a security problem but a hassle for the artists trying to set up their displays.

The art show room must be able to be secured and locked during closed hours. While hotel or convention center safety and fire regulations must be observed, every effort must be taken to keep the art room secure. If the room is secured by a door or doors with locks, the art show staff must know where the keys are at all times. If entrances and exits are secured by other means, those means must be under the strict control of your art show committee. No one, with the exception of security and art show staff, should have access to the art room after hours.

ASFA strongly recommends that security staff be present in the art room during all off hours. Whether professional security guards are hired for the convention (as in the case of a large convention) or volunteers are recruited from the art show committee, someone should be with the art at all times. No matter how well a door is locked, there is always an extra key somewhere. If this can't be done, then at the very least arrange for some sort of alarm or other coverage.


You take responsibility for artwork from the moment the work comes into your care or enters the art show room, whichever is first, until the time the work leaves your care or space, whichever comes last. It is your responsibility to pay for damage or loss of artwork unless the damage is clearly the fault of the artist. Damage caused by a poor job of framing which causes a work to fall is the responsibility of the artist. Damage to mail-in art due to inadequate packaging while en route to the show is also the responsibility of the artist. Damage caused by improper or inadequate hangings are the responsibility of the art show, and so on. The artist should always be compensated for any work damaged by mishandling by staff or attendee. The art show might request reimbursement from the offender at its discretion.

ASFA recommends that you investigate artwork insurance for the time that any art is in the care of the show. It may be an added expense, but some of the art you have in your show may, if lost, damaged or stolen, cost you many times the price of insurance.

If a work of art has received any bids on its bid sheet, the highest bid is the value of the work for purposes of recompense. Otherwise, the minimum bid is to be considered the value of the work. On "Not For Sale" pieces, the value stated by the artist on the control sheet is the value of the piece, unless it is clearly demonstrated by a qualified appraiser that such a value is unreasonable.

Some shows have found it advisable to ask for an "insurance price" on all pieces submitted. In this case, the insurance price is used for recompense, rather than the minimum bid or other such prices.


ASFA is strongly opposed to any photography and videotaping of an artist's work without the artist's express permission. It is your responsibility to insure that no unauthorized photography occurs; this can be done by "sacking" viewers' cameras as they enter the art room (see "Security").

While it is often in the interest of an individual artist (and the art show) to obtain the publicity that news coverage affords, you should remember that the rights to a work always remain with the artist. Specific permission should be obtained beforehand from any artist whose work will be photographed by the news media; it should not be assumed. It is your responsibility to obtain this permission. Furthermore, art shows and conventions should never use an artist's work for publicity purposes without the explicit permission of the artist.

It is permissible for you to photograph artwork for insurance and liability purposes, so long as such photographs are not otherwise used or distributed.


Your primary financial obligation is to the artist. The artist must be paid all sums due him/her before other debts are paid, regardless of whether or not the art show or the convention as a whole breaks even or shows a profit.

ASFA strongly recommends that the art show maintain its own checking account, separate from that of the con in general. In accepting money on behalf of the artists, legally the art show is acting as a bailee, and should not commingle its funds with those derived from other sources. If art show funds due to artist should be paid out for other purposes, it amounts to theft.

In addition to your legal liability, as an art show director your reputation, and the reputation of your show, is at stake. If you have your own account, you can take care of your responsibilities, even if the regular con treasurer contracts a life-threatening illness, goes on an extended vacation the day after the con or absconds with the funds to Rio.

The larger the show, the more time it will take to "balance the books", that is, cross- entering data from the art's ID/bid sheet and buyer's sales sheet back onto the artist's control sheets. If the art show does have its own checking account, the Director will have to cross-check the monies collected against the buyer's sales slips, and deposit the monies in the bank. Any art show accepting payment by checks and charge will have to allow time for them to be processed by the financial institutions involved. Also, allow time for delivery of the checks to the artists via the U.S. Mail.

The art show need not accept responsibility for false bids on artwork (although we strongly recommend that the art show take every precaution to prevent this--see "Bidding"), but once the art show relinquishes a piece of artwork to the prospective buyer, the show should pay the artist even if the buyer fails to pay the show. If an artwork with bid(s) was left behind at the art show and if you cannot collect monies due from the bidder, either pay the artist or return the artwork to the artist.

We recommend that a list of all purchasers of art at the show, listing names and addresses , be sent to all exhibiting artists. We also recommend that the control sheets (or copies) of artworks exhibited in the show be sent to the individual artists of those works, so that the artists may keep a record of who owns which piece, and the art's selling price. NCR forms may facilitate this (see "Control Sheets"). This information is vital to the artist; it validates the artist's records as a business (especially for tax purposes) and for the resale market.

Some artists operate within extremely small cash reserves. If the artist, before the show opens, requests payment immediately after the close of the shoe, you should try to accommodate the artist within reason and within the limits of the show's cash on hand. Obviously, the art show cannot be obligated to honor every such request, but you should use your best judgment in determining which requests to honor.

If you are not able to discharge your obligation to pay artists their earnings within four weeks of the close of the shoe, you must let the artists know why you cannot do so. Since ASFA considers four weeks more than sufficient time for any size convention to attend to its bookkeeping, we feel that only dire circumstances warrant taking a longer time. ASFA will report to its membership and artistic community at large those conventions which are chronically or severely late or delinquents in making artists' payments.


Jan Sherrell Gephardt

Recently among science fiction artists, art buyers and con art show directors there's been a growing controversy over what kinds of prints count as originals and what kinds don't.

The information given here is based on my own experience with, and understanding of, various printmaking techniques. It is not intended to be definitive. Instead, I hope it may help readers who love art, but who never received a lot of specialized academic training in the field.

One final disclaimer: in this article I talk strictly about two-dimensional artworks, since that's where my background is strongest. I know there are similar issues with regard to sculpture, but I don't feel knowledgeable enough about sculpture techniques to discuss them. I also am not prepared in this article to discuss art photographs.


To put it in the simplest terms, the thing that makes a fine art print different from a reproduction is how it was made. Once you understand that, it's not hard to distinguish between the two.

With a fine art print, you don't have a finished product until you make a print edition. You spend your time as an artist working up sketches and color studies (if needed) and then make your plate(s) or screen(s) primarily by hand.

Next, you pull a number of proofs to check the image your plates or screens are producing, and to fix things you don't like. This is where the term "artist's proof" originated. A proof is a test run, an experiment.

Finally, when you're satisfied with what the proofs show you, you pull an edition of prints, again by hand. Once the edition has been made, the plates or screens from which it was produced are destroyed.

Once the prints are dry, you use a pencil to identify them on the bare paper below the image area, as follows:

*Lower left-hand side: Here's where you put the number(looks like a fraction) to tell when in the edition this particular print was pulled (first, fifteenth, etc.), followed by a slash mark and the total number of prints in the edition. Thus, the tenth print in an edition of fifty would be marked 10/50.

*With fine art prints this is important because the handmade plates or screens tend to break down after relatively few prints are made. Lower numbers therefore should be more nearly what the artist wanted, while some blurring or other small flaws may begin to creep into higher-numbered prints.

*Middle: the title of the work.

*Right-hand side: the artist's signature and the date (year at least) when the edition was made.


There are quite a few different methods used to make fine art prints. I've summarized here some of the most common.

1. Woodcut or block print: These are "relief printing" methods; the artist cuts away all areas on one side of a wooden or linoleum block that s/he does not want to print. To print from the block, the artist rolls ink onto the raised areas (those that weren't cut away) then presses the paper against the inked block..

2. Intaglio (pronounced in-TAL-yo): The artist produces a metal plate with little grooves or pits in it (which correspond to the image). Ink is rubbed down into these indentations, then polished off the "raised" parts of the plate in a reverse of the relief printing method.

Paper that has been soaked in water to make it pliable is laid over the plate. Then plate and paper are run through a press that exerts tremendous pressure, forcing the paper down into contact with the ink. The print. is carefully peeled off the plate and stretched to dry. You can usually tell an intaglio print right away because the edges of the metal plate make an impression on the paper, sort of framing the image area.

A surprising number of different techniques can be used or combined to make intaglio prints, such as etching, drypoint and engraving.

3. Lithograph: This is called a "planographic" technique, because there are no raised or lowered parts of the plate. As the name will tell those with a passing knowledge of Greek, a lithograph is an image from a stone.

Using the principle that oil and water don't mix, the artist treats a smoothly polished "litho stone" so it will attract water evenly. S/he then draws on it with an oil-based litho crayon or similar substance, applies water, and rolls on an oil-based ink. The ink sticks to the lines that were dawn with the oily medium and the water keeps the ink off the rest of the surface. Paper is placed on the stone and run through a specialized press to make the print.

4. Serigraph (pronounced SAIR-ih-graf): When a silk-screen print meets the criteria for a fine art print (mostly hand methods, prints that are the first final product of the process, etc.) it's called a serigraph.

As with intaglio methods, there are a great many ways to do serigraphy (sair-IG-ra-fee). But they are all based on the principle of a stencil on a finely woven cloth "screen" with ink forced through the weave(usually by a squeegee) into the paper below.


Basically, it's a reproduction if the artist makes it by taking a finished drawing or painting and using a (generally photographic) method to make copies of it. The two methods most often used in SF art are photoprints and lithoprints.

1. Photoprints are pictures of pictures. A photographer shoots a slide or negative of a piece of art and prints copies on photographic paper. Depending on the colors used in the original and the skill of the photo lab, a photoprint may match the original very well or not so nicely (blues and greens seem to be especially hard to reproduce accurately). Like any color photograph, a photoprint will eventually suffer some color shifting. If it's well cared for, you can figure its lifetime at about 70-75 years.

2. Lithoprints must not be confused with lithographs. A lithoprint is so called because it's make by a commercial process called "photo-offset lithography", which is based on the same oil- and-water-don't-mix a s true lithographs. The difference is that the printer shoots a negative image (or several, if for color printing) of the artwork, uses that to photochemically place the image on printing plates (metal, plastic, or paper), inks the plates and runs the paper through a press.

Lithoprints have the potential of lasting longer than Photoprints. They can be printed on low-acid or acid-free paper, with stable inks whose pigments are less prone to color shifts.

Many reproductions, be they Photoprints or Lithoprints, are offered to buyers in signed, numbered limited editions just like fine art prints--and that's where the confusion has arisen, because to the untrained eye it's difficult to tell which is what.

While limited editions of reproductions are still somewhat controversial, the practice has come to be considered acceptable in recent years. I suspect that this is at least partly due to the fact that some artists would have difficulty making any money on their work without such prints. And many buyers would not be able to afford art they liked if they couldn't but it this way.

It is very important, however, to make the nature of the print clear to the buyer.

Also, since commercial reproduction methods can produce many thousands of identical images, sequential numbering of reproduction editions has value only because buyers expect it and themselves place a value on it. A lithoprint numbered 6/5000 won't be significantly different in quality from number 4999/5000, but a buyer may feel the lower number is more valuable.


Before I close, I want to address the question of the "hybrid", the piece that falls in the gray area between fine art prints and reproductions. I'm thinking specifically of the hand-colored lithoprint.

These usually start as a black and white reproduction of a drawing. The artist then adds color by hand to the individual copies. While this may seem like the grown-up equivalent of coloring books to some, it does make the hand-colored copy a unique piece. No two will be colored in quite the same way, even if the artist tries. This is why some art shows accept them as originals. Outside of conventions, however, you don't find much acceptance of this practice.