On Pricing Artwork

OneDollar, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

I wish I had one of these for every photographer who ever asked me about how to price their artwork. I would be a rich woman. It’s not that I don’t mind helping, I do like to help, in fact. It’s just that…well…pricing artwork is really not that difficult. You stick a price on the thing and be done with it.

Most photographers (and artists, for that matter) spend way too much time worrying about pricing. They try to psycho-analyze the market and do these “mental gymnastics” over and over again in their head. “What if somebody likes it but they can’t afford it?” or “What if I price it at $199, that sounds like $200 but really isn’t , I’ll get more buyers that way, right?”

Here’s a tip for you. Most artwork is bought on impulse. People see a framed photograph, a painting, a sculpture, or whatever, and decide they have to have it. In a mere split second, they decide if they like your work and, if they do, if it will go with their couch. That’s how art is bought. It’s more like the way you purchase chewing gum at your local grocery store. You find yourself waiting in line at the checkout, you look over, think to yourself, “Hmmm. My mouth is tired and I like grape…” and BAM! another Wrigley’s fine product has been dispensed. That’s how your artwork is purchased too, only on a bit larger of a scale. This is also the “big secret” behind the reason why galleries do not accept colored mattes and they want everything to be “framed and ready to hang.” It has to look like somebody can see it out of the corner of their eye, fall in love, and buy it within a 30 second period of time because, when they sell stuff, that’s how it is.

As an artist, you can only get what the market will bear and usually anyway, that price is quite low, but still affords you a profit. Here’s another debunking of a “big myth” for you: most folks know that artists have “day jobs” and don’t make all their income from selling their artwork. Sure, we try to be professional and look like we know what we’re doing but the “dirty little secret” is that everybody works, even if some of us are “just” housewives, shoe salesman, grocery store clerks, or what have you.

High priced art is sold only to big collectors who scope out what they want to buy, and follow the career of artists. They don’t start with beginners. You’re not Monet, give it up. Nobody is going to spend two point whatever million on artwork produced by a beginner, or even a “serious” amateur. When you’re dead, you’ll just be dead-you won’t be worth anything (other than, say, what a “typical” corpse is worth. Then again, maybe you’ll get lucky and some rock star will need yet another liver.) Quit deluding yourself, asking for advice, fretting about your pricing, fussing and all that. Go take more pictures. Maybe, if you’re lucky, those’ll be worth something.

My only other advice is to pick a price that’s within market limits and stick to it. $150, that’s my final offer, take it or leave it. That sounds good to me and I can live with it, so that’s what I typically sell my artwork at these days. Avoid trying to raise and lower your prices, as this can really back-fire and piss off gallery owners. Imagine how you would feel if you were a gallery owner and just spent hours hanging and promoting a show only to find out that the artist in question “pimped” the work to another gallery, across town, and is selling it there for $100 less. The words “pissed off” would not begin to cover that emotion. So, avoid that trap as an artist, pick one price and stick to it.

So now that all the “big secrets” are out, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go chew on some grape bubble gum. Good luck pricing your artwork. I’m sure you’ll sell lots and stockpile tons of these little buggers.

Until next dead prez…


1 Comment

  1. CraftyGuy
    August 22, 2006 / 4:05 pm

    Very insightful, very useful. I will bear this in mind when I am “ready” (does one every really get to that point tho?) 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *