Surtex is coming, Surtex is coming!
There has been a lot of chatter recently about the coming Surtex show, I guess for good reason because for many years it was the place to be seen for art licensors. The show (an acronym for Surface and Textile design) started 20-some years ago as a business to business event where designers could sell their wares to manufacturers, and early on most did sell outright, but through the years licensing has taken over. The show once featured almost 350 exhibitors and occupied several of the halls at Javits in its heyday. But things do change, and it has been shrinking for a lot of reasons – such as online technology, the growth of newer show venues, fluctuating attendee numbers, the decline of the concurrent National Stationery Show, the relentless price increases, the drop-out of experienced artists – just to name a few. It’s not the show it used to be, and our own measurable results from the last couple years there were not what they used to be either, so for the first time in more than a decade we will not be exhibiting at Surtex. (You will still find us exhibiting elsewhere – Atlanta, CHA, Licensing Expo, maybe others).
Not being there however does not change how I feel about agents and artists who don’t exhibit attending the show: they should not be there.
OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh as there are a few valid reasons for an artist to attend – to evaluate exhibiting, attend a seminar, look for an agent, you’re an art student or you are represented on the floor. But that’s about it. For years exhibitors have been complaining to show mgmt about all the portfolios being shown in the lobby, the food courts, sometimes inside Surtex itself – and nothing was being done about it. Granted it is difficult to police, particularly with the NSS going on, but many if not most of the artists/agents doing the showing were there for one reason – a free ride on the backs of those paying dearly to exhibit in the show. I still bristle every time I read a comment from a non-exhibiting artist who says they are going to Surtex to meet licensees, and shake my head in wonder as exhibitors give them advice on how to do it. (More on that later…). It is gratifying to hear from some of the manufacturers that they will refuse to meet with non-exhibiting artists within the Javits center, but unfortunately they are few and far between.
So yes, Surtex is coming, but as I have said before: this is a business to business event and not a public art fair – if you are not paying for the opportunity to do business there, please don’t take advantage of those that are.