Setting The Price Of Your Art

As has been said before the point of all of this creating is to sell; right?

A studio full of pieces of work is a waste, it needs to be an industrious space where more is being created all the time.  A studio is not a big cupboard.

So assuming that your work is of a good enough standard to sell and assuming that there is a market for what you have created, let’s look at the price.

It is difficult for some artists to work out a price for the things they create.  Often for those who are new to the game, the price is plucked from the air (we use the term ‘air-plucked’).  This has resulted too often in either an artist having amazing luck in that someone came along and paid over the odds for the work (and it is luck) or an artist has let something go too cheap and lost potential income resulting in them working for less than a Euro an hour.

It’s worth remembering that even when a piece of art sells too cheap, so long as the costs are covered and there is a little in the pot for time, then the sale does clear the studio of dead stock and enables new creativity to happen.

Making art occurs in the safe space of the mind and your working space (this is a fluffy place), but selling art puts the artwork into the public realm.  It takes the piece and places it at the mercy of people who will think about whether their hard earned cash is going to be spent on what you have made and the decision making process there can be brutal for an artist (this is not fluffy).

Just as with everything else that is for sale at any given time there are market forces acting upon the decision-making process of the collector.  Supply and demand, comparative prices and the old chestnut of measuring the difference between value and price.

Now visualise your piece of artwork as a little star.  Although it seems a herculean task; the better you understand how your little star of creation fits into the cosmos of all creations by all creators which are offered in all the places which sell art; the better braced you are considering the notion of setting a price and consequently selling your art.  You are one artist out of thousands (hundreds of thousands of we do not only consider contemporary but historical artists too), offering a piece of artwork out of millions of pieces of artwork which are being offered right now.  The odds of you selling your piece if the price is too high is very slim indeed.

Now, this is where we enter the world of ‘two-truths’.  You have an idea of what you think you want to sell your artwork for.  The art market will also make a judgement.  The art market is made up of people, companies and businesses which between them create an aggregate of value for art around the world.

The art market has traditionally been made up of:

  • agents
  • appraisers
  • auction houses
  • buyers
  • collectors
  • curators
  • dealers
  • galleries

Most of these functions are fulfilling the role of ‘middle men’.  They need their value too since they have overheads to pay and so the value of art sold through these places typically have a higher price if not a higher value than art sold by the artist from their studio.

Of course, as more artwork is sold online, more of the added cost which historically was added by the middle-men have simply been removed.   The artist still gets the same amount whilst the buyer or collector gets a better deal, makes a better investment.  This opens the market up to true free-market forces instead of being ‘governed’ by the gatekeepers of old.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to cut yourself out of the possibility of selling through the traditional gatekeepers and so your prices need to be more or less attuned to what they would be able to achieve.  That means if selling through galleries is your goal, you need to put a price on your art and then double it; then sell your art for that price.  Galleries will want to charge you a fair commission for the work they do (normally up to 50%) and they will need to see that you can command a serious price; something worthwhile of their efforts.

I want to illustrate for you how market forces work by using an example unrelated to the art world.

Let’s imagine that you see a car for sale.  It’s a used 10-year-old Volkswagen Golf (and it does not really matter what car).  The car has more than 150,000 on the clock and it is offered for sale for £15,000.  In all likelihood that car will not sell.  A quick search on AutoTrader tells us that the car should be offered at less than £10,000.   The value of the car is less than the £15,000 asking price.

In order for this car to sell the price will be set according to variables applied to sell used cars.  It is the same with you selling your artwork.  In order for you to sell your work, you need to consider the variables normally applied to art when you realistically price your artwork to achieve sales.

We don’t want to see your prices air-plucked.  It is not sustainable.

You can use various references to help you set fair prices for your art:

  •  Bio, it shows what you have achieved as an artist
  • Sales so far
  • Where you are selling

From these three points, ordinary collectors and the gatekeepers to the ‘art market’ (listed above) will soon work out whether your prices are fair and good value.  In order to sell your art, you need to be able to convince or persuade them that the value is more than the price or you will find selling your work very difficult.

As with all things the first step is always the hardest.  If you have not sold before and so don’t have a track record, if you have not yet sold in a particular market or location before, if your sale history jumps all over the place and so does not really provide a benchmark to hold onto, then you can so what lots of other industries do.  They use ”comparables”.  This means looking at similarities between what is already for sale and trying to benchmark what you have against that.  Working out the value of a real estate is done in a similar way.  Houses of a certain size and condition are for sale in a certain area for between X & Y.  If your house is similar in size, condition and in the same neighbourhood, then you can do the best guess on the price you should offer it.  Art is no different.

For example, let’s take a nice big mansion and plop it down in Mayfair. It’ll be worth maybe five, maybe ten, maybe forty million Great British Pounds. Now, let’s plop it onto the badlands of the New Romney Marsh in Kent. It’ll be worth maybe £500,000, maybe £1,000,000 or maybe a little more… max. Same mansion; different neighbourhood; different criteria; different prices.  Hopefully, this is all making sense so far.

There is no point pricing your work as if it exists in isolation uninfluenced by the wider cosmos.  It does not.  There is a world of art comparables affecting the price and value of what you have created.  Some effects of that cosmos will be immediately local, some regional, some national or international, to a greater or lesser extent.  How much you and your artwork are affected by the comparables in the artwork depending on where you decide to sell it.

Don’t let your own love for your creation or your ego get in the way of the reality that your art, however ‘unique’ can and will be compared against the other work in the public domain.  Don’t deny this or else you will be showing the same piece of work in the same open studio event for three years in a row and it will likely never sell.  We have written before about the need to keep things fresh too.

The comparables used to assess your art include:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Medium
  • Weight
  • Subject
  • Colours
  • Time to make
  • When made
  • The length of your art career
  • How many you have made
  • What type of art it is (abstract, impressionist etc)
  • Who your audience is

This list is not exhaustive.

Explore and learn the market you operate in.  Discover art most like yours.  Learn about the artists and where you find their stories chime with yours; check their prices for benchmarks and learn why they charge the amount they do.  benchmarking does not mean that you charge the same, it just means you use that price point when comparing your own.  You might end up charging more or less, but you will have justified that in your mind and you will be able to communicate that to your collectors.

A nice place to kick off is with a formula for pricing your art which consideres:

  • time
  • labour
  • cost of materials

For example, if materials cost $150, you take 10 hours to make the art and you pay yourself $35 per hour, then you price the art at $500.

Of course, give yourself a reasonable wage.  Don’t underpay yourself and don’t go mad.  If you use this system and your art turns out to be too expensive when compared against what other artists are selling for in your comparibles, then you will need to have another think about your pricing or think about reducing the amount you pay yourself every hour.

So let’s try and condense all of that into a few simple steps;

  1. Know your market. Where will you be trying to sell your art?  Make your mind up about where you are going to try to sell your art, locally, regionally, nationally or on the international market. The artwork, creators and prices in your market are what you should be looking at and learning.
  2. Know your type of art. What kind of art do you produce? What are the physical characteristics of your artwork? Can you compare and contrast your work against other work in your market similar to other art? How do you categorize it? If you paint abstracts, for example, what kind of abstracts, how would you describe them? This is the type of art you generally want to focus on for comparison purposes.
  3. Get to know which artists make art similar to yours either by researching online or visiting galleries, open studios or other venues and seeing their work in person. Introduce yourself, become friends with them.  The art market is big enough for everyone to make money, so just be friends.  Pay particular attention to those artists who also have career accomplishments, resumes similar to yours, who have been making art or showing them as long as you have.
  4. Look at how much similar artists charge for their work.  This is not a science, but their prices will be good benchmarks for you to measure the value of your own work against.

End.

__________________________________________

@rtMarketDirect

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With ArtMarketDirect.com artists are able to take control of their own careers, list their own pieces for sale to collectors and undertake their own fulfillment of orders.

The only stipulation on ArtMarketDirect.com is that the work you list is your own and is original. Where prints are for sale, we ask that all image copyrights belong to you and that you are legally disposed to sell the pieces you have on offer.

The site is FREE to use with only 10% sales commission OR for those willing to bet on themselves with only a nominal subscription (from less than £1/month) to upload unlimited artwork and very low 3% commission on sales. If you are a creative ArtMarketDirect.com is the best option you have.

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