Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about all the faces she makes while painting faces and other things.

How to price art

2012 . 06 . 12 - Comments / Commentaires (4)

Il existe aussi une version française de ce poste.

When pricing your artwork, there are four aspects of the money-art relationship to consider:

1) What the market will allow.

The first step towards establishing appropriate pricing is seeing what the going rate is.  What do artists with similar work charge?  Points of comparison for determining what work is similar include medium, genre, and style, but also crucial are the artists’ résumés.  Do these artists have more press recognition than you?  Are the artists or their work affiliated with institutions like universities, established galleries, and museums?

2) What will pay for your time and expertise.

Evaluating how much time it actually takes to create works can also help to set a price, and really acknowledging your investment can help you figure out how to get a decent return on that investment.

3) What you need in order to have optimal work flow.

This tends to be a less-recognized puzzle piece in the pricing game, but it’s really very important.  If your prices are low enough and your work good enough, you’ll probably have more sales than you can reasonably handle.  This can lead to feeling rushed in the studio—a condition that, while financially pleasant and nice for the ego, is not conducive to creativity in the long run.  If you charge a little more, you may sell less work, but the work you do sell will have more space-time-sanity built into it, leading to a decrease in burn-out and an increase in joy.

4) What your prices say about your work.

No matter how good $100 art is, it’s still $100 art.  What I mean by that is that it’s not possible to experience a work of art without its context—the venue it’s displayed in, the way it’s lit, its creator’s reputation, the way critics and other viewers talk about it, and, yes, the price tag.  All these factors go into the perceived value of a work and, to my mind anyway, perceived value is the only real kind.  So-called intrinsic value is the domain of the wishful-thinkers and those who don’t understand how society and human psychology work.

In 2008, I significantly raised my prices by increasing the gap between my offerings in different sizes.  At first this move terrified me, but I quickly found a whole new audience for my work, people who noted my improved prices and judged my work as more appealing because of them.  In other words, within reason, the price itself can actually make a work more or less valuable.



painted diptych of a couple

Gwenn Seemel
Curnis and Becky
2010
acrylic on canvas
17 x 26 inches (combined dimensions)
(For more information about the making of these paintings, go here.)

Over the years, I’ve figured out how to sell art, how to make art on commission, and even how to discount art without cheapening it.  I know a thing or two about how art and money interact. 

That said, the pricing question is a bit more complicated—not Wall-Street require-bail-outs-every-few-years-because-we-make-money-out-thin-air complicated, but complicated.  I’ve been told that my prices are too high, and I’ve been told that they’re too low.  And every time someone comments on the dollars I assign to my art, I agree with them wholeheartedly!

What I can say with complete confidence is that making money from your art or, more specifically, making the right amount of money from your art is essential to making good art.  A sustainable art practice is the only kind that can produce art with any depth.


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CATEGORIES: - TOP POSTS - Business of art -



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(4) Comments / Commentaires: How to price art

-- Jaime Haney -- 2012 . 06 . 26 --

I’ve just found you through the Art Empowers Me interviews. I find the discussion of pricing to be much easier than actually doing it. I like your breakdown.

I am left wondering, in number four is the $100 art you speak of high or low in your opinion?

I am enjoying exploring your site, fantastic work.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 06 . 26 --

Very generally speaking, $100 dollar art is cheap art.  Of course, that does depend on medium, on your résumé, and on your local market.  Researching comparable artist in depth is a really important aspect of determining price.

I hope that helps, and thank you for your kind words and for stopping by!

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-- Georgia Papadakis -- 2013 . 03 . 17 --

One of my big concerns when pricing has been, how often will I sell a painting? Some years ago I was showing my work in cafes and restaurants, and I’d sell a painting for anywhere between $175 and $550. But over the course of three or four years, I sold 16 paintings. It’s been years since I sold anything, and I want to try again.

How do you go about researching similar artists’ prices? I like to look on Etsy because not only do you see prices, but you can check out what/how much sold. Do you have any other suggestions on where to look?

Thank you for sharing so much useful information!

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-- Gwenn -- 2013 . 03 . 17 --

Googling “artist + [name of your city]” and checking out the websites that come up is a good way to figure out where your local market is.  Also, going out to see art that’s for sale locally is useful.  Even if another artist’s résumé is more developed than your own, their prices can indicate what you can work towards!

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