Mar 24, 2017
Steven Biller © 2017
How to Price Your Art: 7 Expert Tips
The last thing most artists want to discuss is the price of their artwork. But here you are, clicking into a blog titled, “How to Price Your Art.” I assure you this hardly ranks among my favorite topics. I mean, geez, it’s math. Unless you make paintings like Michael Schultheis, you probably avoid the subject like I do.
I’ll tell you right up front: There’s no art or science to setting prices. It’s one of the most nebulous aspects of being an artist — but not without several important considerations.
I’ve discussed the subject with several artists and dealers to offer you these tips:
- Charge fairly for your time, experience, and materials. The simple recipe? Track your time and expenses, add a dash of overhead (rent, utilities, assistants, transportation and postage), and mix in the dealer’s sales commission (usually 50 percent, less for sculpture) and inevitable discount. Some consultant suggests you pay yourself an hourly wage. She says the average hourly wage for fine artists is about $23, reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In some cases, a dealer might wants to set your prices based on your exhibition and sales history. This should be a friendly negotiation. Remember, you can always increase prices, but you should never reduce them.
- Evaluate the pricing of works by comparably experienced artists in your region. You can glean this information from local galleries. The businesses person in you should be aware of who’s creating what, where it’s showing, how it’s priced, and who’s buying. Not necessarily because you’re competing, but more to understand your environment.
- Be realistic when assessing “comparables.” Unless you have a steep exhibition history, work in museums and important collections, and a high level of recognition, you should avoid pricing your work like artists who do. Again, you can always increase prices when the time is right.
- Raise prices only when demand increases. The demand may come from a growing number of exhibitions and sustained sales of at least a year. Never jack up prices on a whim or because you need money or think your prices have been this way for long enough. It could hurt you in the long run.
- Avoid emotionally charged pricing decisions. If you’re too close to a piece of art, don’t sell it. I’ve met artists who sell only prints of their original works.
- Consider the medium. Generally — heavy emphasis on generally — a painting costs more than a drawing. A drawing costs more than a print. A print from a small edition (fewer than 50 impressions) costs more than a print from large editions (more than 100). Likewise, a one-of-a-kind sculpture costs more than a three-dimensional work from an edition. And, of course, sculpture typically costs more to produce and transport.
- Be consistent. If you price a work at $3,500 in one gallery (or art fair, etc.), price comparable works the same way in other venues. You don’t want a collector who bought your work at one price to find you selling a comparable (or better) piece at a lower price.
That wasn’t so bad. And neither are those Schultheis paintings.
Steven Biller is editor of Palm Springs Life ART+CULTURE and a contributing writer for art ltd.
The essays are intended for personal enjoyment. The opinions expressed in content published on the LQAF Sites by Guest Contributors or Bloggers and comments made by the public at large are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the La Quinta Arts Foundation or any employee thereof. La Quinta Arts Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by Guest Contributors, Bloggers or in comments made by the general public.