5 Thoughts To Consider When Pricing Your Fine Art
Welcome to the BIG black void known as pricing art. How in the hell do we as artists place a realistic value, and more importantly something we're comfortable with, on a creation we most likely spent many hours creating?
A six figure painting is unrealistic, unless you're a celebrity artist like, Jeffrey L. Koons. Artists like Koons can charge whatever they damn well please and get away with it because auction houses back the illusion.
Koons, is an American artist recognized for his work dealing with popular culture and his sculptures depicting everyday objects including balloon animals – produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces. He lives and works in both New York City and his hometown of York, Pennsylvania.
However, for most artists in the real world charging too much will get you a one-way ticket to Lost clientele. On the other hand, charge too little, and you'll find that eventually you'll be in the hole unable to pay bills and stay afloat in this rather daunting, but posh market.
Yes, I've been there...
1. Remember: Your Pricing Will Evolve With Time.
In other words, whatever you charge now for a particular piece will not necessarily be what you'll charge in the future. Your price will be based on experience and accomplishments as an artist. A goal I have set for myself is to increase my prices every eighteen months. So leave yourself some room to grow.
2. Avoid The Urge To Undercharge.
That said, leaving sparse room for growth isn't the problem most artists have — most of us have the opposite issue: charging too little. I'm guilty of this myself. Especially when it comes to friends and family who admire your work. Stand your ground though and charge everyone the same price. This will retain value in your body of work, and your collectors or followers will appreciate that they have supported you and your art.
3. Be Clear and Consistent In Your Effort.
Of course your goal is to be paid well for your time, but the truth is, some of your pieces probably take a lot longer to create than others.
You know how much work went into each piece, but customers don’t know (and don’t usually care) how long a piece took you to create. Charging by the hour is likely to result in a lot of confusion as potential customers look at two pieces of the same size and wonder why piece A is so much more expensive than piece B.
If you’re a painter, one way to ensure you’re clear and consistent is by using size-based pricing — either by the square inch (height x width) or by the linear inch (height + width). This makes your pricing easy for potential clients to understand, and it prevents you from charging more for pieces you’re particularly fond of, which makes your pricing seem random and confusing. Remember, customers who are confused do not buy.
With size-based pricing, you simply need to determine your current multiplier (the number you multiply by the canvas size) in order to immediately know the price for any given piece.
Here, for example, is square-inch pricing, using a multiplier of 1 (i.e, $1.00 per square inch):
24 x 30 in = 720 square inches. Multiply this number by $1.00 and you'll get your price. i.e. $720.00 plus material cost. I typically estimate about $100.00 per painting in material cost. So in this example a painting would come to $820.00. This base number can be adjusted around geographic location, and if it will be show in a gallery that takes a 30 to 50% commission.
Most new artists can start out with a $0.50 to $0.75 cent price per square inch.
4. Do your research.
It can be useful to look around at what other artists are charging for their work - artists in your local area, and especially artists at a similar stage in their careers.
The challenge here, though, is that what other people charge is likely to be all over the map. So when you do your research, be sure to take into consideration how you want to brand yourself. Do you pride yourself on making “art for everyone,” at “every-man” prices? Or do you want to make your mark as a high-end, premium-pricing artist?
I'll admit my work currently is branded and priced for the premium market, but I also have twenty plus years of experience and a national, as well as, a regional award under my belt.
5. Be Confident. Stand Firm In Your Price.
A year ago I entered a show via a gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of my two pieces, "Sensual Chaos" submitted was selected to participate in said one month erotic exhibition. I delivered the piece to the gallery and the owner asked me what I was asking for in a price.
I told him my price, $1,350, and he scoffed at me and said, "it will never sell for that."
Shocked, I asked him, "Well this is your place, what do you think something like this will go for in this area?" He looked my painting over and said, "$350.00."
I replied with an uneasy confusion, "I can't go that low on this piece. I have much smaller work that sells for that."
Its important to note that "Sensual Chaos" is a 30 x 40 inch acrylic on professional grade, gallery wrapped canvas. So using the square inch method to calculate a price - I would come up with a basic figure of $1,200, but I charge slightly more then a $1.00 for my work. I also decided to omit adding in material cost as I felt it was built in to the $1,350.00 price tag.
Unfortunately, the gallery owner and I were at a thousand dollar difference in price. I wanted to participate in the show, but I couldn't offer my piece for the ridiculous price the gallery owner was stating. The owner said, "It's your art, you can charge whatever you want, but I hope you're prepared to come back in a month to pick it up."
I smiled at this off-handed comment and almost walked out with my painting in hand, but I decided to lower my asking price some, but defiantly not down to $350.
A month goes by, and I call the gallery to setup a time to come pick up my painting. However, I come to find out that my piece sold during the one month exhibition at the slightly reduced price I was asking.. So moral of the story is remain confident in your price and stand your ground . Only you know what your art is truly worth.
Wrapping Thing Up.
The really challenging thing about pricing is that there are no hard and fast rules. Everything depends on you, your work, where you live, where you are in your career — there are so many variables it can be very frustrating at times.