I have travelled to America 22 times in the name of art – one of these trips was to attend a safari show in Dallas to sell my African paintings. The safari show is a peculiarly American institution where all the big game hunters, or wannabe hunters, check out the new weapons, buy their next safari to Africa, or buy some art. Run by Safari Club International (SCI), these shows attract thousands of people to huge sheds over a 4 day period. It has to be experienced to be believed!
My original plan was to have my own booth, but as a newbie I would be placed right out the back – a map and a packed lunch would be required to find me. So to get the most exposure I had to be part a major gallery. This was an expensive option but got me prime position in the shed and good exposure to potential art buyers. As there are many artists represented, to get buyers attention takes some effort - or some really tacky gimmicks. One chap had jugglers and African dancers at his booth. All I had was my art and my charming personality!
I remember the Dallas Safari Show as a real eye opener for the boy from Australia – a bit like Crocodile Dundee must have felt when he landed in New York City! My hotel was a 3km walk from the Show, so I set off on foot via McDonalds for breakfast on the way. It was then I realised that no-one walks in Dallas – everyone drives for a reason. Here I was, all dressed up in suit and tie for my day of spruiking art, and I thought I wouldn’t make it alive. The armed guard protecting McDonalds was a real give away that my transport planning was seriously flawed!
While I hated the emphasis on hunting, I did enjoy meeting the amazing array of people who attend these shows. One lady in particular stands out. She was well-dressed, carried a very large handbag and was obviously rather inebriated. Later on I discovered she was a well-heeled member of a local family. A regular attendee at these events, she got around the “no alcohol” rule by carrying her own in her hand-bag and sampling regularly. Just as well I was polite because she bought some of my work!
I never attended another safari show, but did have my work for sale through the gallery at a number of other shows. My last piece of African art sold in a SCI auction in February 2019. It was my last link to the safari shows. I think selling online via my shop is going to be a happier method for me.