Convention art shows are started in the 1960s and have become increasingly elaborate, often with separate print shops. For the first twenty years of conventions, there was no art show as such, though art auctions were a major source of convention funding. The modern convention art show probably derives from Bjo Trimble's Project Art Show which aimed to set up a display of fan art at Pittcon, the 1960 Worldcon.
A modern art show is normally one of the major departments of a convention, displaying both original fan and pro art and prints. The art usually has sf or fantasy themes. Through the 1970s, one regular feature were sketch tables, which often sold original art that had appeared in fanzines; unused sketches sometimes came with reproduction rights for faneds.
It's not uncommon for art show sales to be around $5,000 at a smaller regional convention and up to $100,000 at a Worldcon. The art show is both an exhibit and a place where convention members can buy art, so art show fees (paid by the artists) are generally set to cover direct costs. Fees are sometimes charged as a percentage of sales and sometimes as a fixed space fee regardless of sales.
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