Understanding How To Price & Sell Art – Part 1
Getting the right price for artwork has always held quite a large cloud of fog over it for many artists. ‘I don’t want to be too cheap’ ‘I want people to be able to afford to buy it’ ‘I don’t set the prices, I ask a friend to do it’ are statements I have heard many times. They all hold a certain amount of truth to them, but don’t necessarily assist you in maximising your reputation and sales in the best way.
One thing that needs to be clear is who your audience is. Who do you want to sell your work to? The most common answer to this is ‘anyone!’ I recently had a number of new works showing in a group exhibition for the first time, and some of the price ranges were crazy (£50-£4000) – not crazy in a comparison with other works, but for individual pieces themselves. The majority of artists had submitted their work from across the globe, and were all relatively unknown. Most of the works were quite experimental, in the sense that they weren’t framed or were using a wide combination of mediums not usually associated with 2D work. What struck me the most was the number of paper-based works, unframed, that were priced in the thousands. Would you pay a lot of money for an artwork that was unframed, unprotected and could easily be damaged?
When pricing work, you always have to bear in mind that someone might actually want to buy it. It sounds obvious, but I know so many artists that get wrapped up in the process of making and their philosophy that pricing goes completely out of the window. To make your chances of selling greater, framing 2D work (particularly paper based) should be a given. Buyers will be less inclined to purchase work that isn’t framed, as they then have to go out (spending their own money) and buy a frame so they are then able to hang it. Most artists are aware that unframed works on paper are particularly vulnerable to ageing (fading, moisture damage) which in turn devalues the work and also won’t make your buyers happy in the long term.
There are a number of points I always bear in mind when pricing my artwork. Cost of materials, time spent creating and where I am showing. It’s so important to cover your basic material costs; there’s no point in pricing your work at £300 if the materials and framing alone cost you £450 – it doesn’t make sense and ultimately you are losing money, not making it. I have never seen my art practice as a business in the literal sense, but you do need to have a basic level of business know-how if you want to make a profit from your artwork and be a full time artist. The time you spend creating the work should really be high on the list too. If you have spent one month creating a sculpture (full time), if you were in a paid job what would you have earnt? Obviously it depends on the job, but the longer it takes, the higher the price. It’s also worth bearing in mind your success to date – have you been nominated for/won awards, shown at prestigious galleries/museums, had residencies, trained at art school/university? This all factors in to your reputation and art practice – your skills and experience have an influence on the work you create and what a buyer is getting as part of your artwork and you as an artist.
Working out the specifics of pricing isn’t as straightforward and is completely different for everyone, and so I’ll go into more detail on this in another post.