Shows can be tough. The difficulties of needing to generate revenue as an artist and balancing the sometimes huge costs associated with doing shows can wear down even the most enthusiastic of us artists. We need to make money when galleries are having trouble selling our work (or even when they aren’t), but there are no guarantees we'll sell at any particular show. The only real guarantee is that we'll spend money just attending them — and lots of it. When you calculate everything from show fees to travel expenses, lodging and food, shipping costs, commissions...it really starts to add up.
This constant, nagging need to produce revenue just to cover expenses can overshadow some of the more subtle benefits of doing shows. Benefits that often times bear more fruit than just making a little money.
Understand that shows are the ultimate connection to an art-loving audience. Within that audience there are likely collectors, gallery curators, art publication editors, other show coordinators and people that may not as of yet be financially able to purchase your work, but may be able to in the future. This is the true benefit of doing art shows as an artist — making connections with folks that can help you in your journey as an artist. It supercedes the immediate possibility (and need) of generating revenue because it is an opportunity to put into place the elements that will help to build your career. The connections that can be made at shows are often the catalyst for an artist's success, and when nurtured over time, the relationships originated at shows build a firm foundation the artist can rely on for future revenue. Shows are exposure — exposure to a highly targeted audience. As an artist, this exposure is your greatest asset in building your career. Don’t underestimate it. And whatever you do, don’t let any lack of sales at any particular show dampen your outlook if you're able to make connections with people who love your work.