How to price your art
So you finally have your artwork ready and are now prepared to list it in the market. First and foremost, congratulations!
Pricing your art may seem fairly straightforward at first, but it can be quite daunting, especially when you are worried about overpricing or underpricing. Creating artwork is all about the personal experiences of the individual and it can be hard to put a price on things like that. Plus, art prices are dictated by so many forces such as the economy that determine what art and things of that nature are worth.
Many artists don’t even consider how to price their art until the art-creating process is complete and when the piece or collection is ready to leave your studio for sale. It doesn’t matter how you intend to offload your work; whether that’s through an established gallery in your area, through an agent you recently met or were introduced to, your local art fair, at an open studio or online- pricing your art properly will determine your success as an artist.
The more you understand how to price your artwork, the more you will start to understand how the art market works and where your art fits into this bigger picture. The more informed you are the better prepared you will be to sell your art in whichever market you want to sell your art in.
Like any other commodity, certain established rules and conventions have to be followed when you price your art. Most of these conventions have more to do with economic forces than with the quality of work. As such, even though you might think that your artwork deserves to fetch more, it may not necessarily sell at the price that you want to sell it for.
So when pricing your art, one of the first things that artists often have to do is carry out price comparisons. This will help one determine how dealers, galleries and auction houses, publishers and appraisers assign value to your work so that you can then apply those principles in your own pricing.
So how exactly is art priced?
Art prices are not created without a basis or formula in mind. When artwork is priced, several things have to be put into consideration so that the price of the artwork in question can make sense and that the prices are justified with respect to the artist or the technique used.
So what exactly makes one artwork more expensive than the other?
Sometimes determining the value of art is as easy as looking at the artist that created it. When you take a look through the history of art, it is easy to see why certain artists’ works are valued more highly than others. Artists with a larger body of work tend to fetch higher prices for their works than novice or beginner artists, although there are exceptions in some cases.
The period in which the work was produced and whether the work being sold is representative of the artist’s style is also another important factor to determine the price based on the artist. Pieces that are made unique with the artist’s style tend to be priced slightly better than works that aren’t.
A certificate of authenticity
Documentation has become part and parcel of sold and purchased artwork. As buying art continues to become a more and more private affair that doesn’t involve an intermediary such as a gallery, the documentation that comes with artwork has become more important than ever.
For instance, for significant works that have a high value, such as Van Gogh, approval must be acquired from one body- the Van Gogh Museum. On the other hand, impressionist artwork has to be approved by the Wildenstein Institute before it is sold, and so forth.
The subject of the work
Some subjects also tend to attract higher prices compared to others. For example, a painting that features a nude woman as a subject is more likely to sell for a higher price compared to a painting of a building or a still object.
Provenance is one of the most important factors when pricing artwork. The stronger the provenance of a piece is, the better. If an artist has a catalog raisonné or critical catalog, it also helps to considerably increase the value of the artwork. Another essential component that can enhance the provenance is the ability to prove when a piece of artwork was once by someone famous apart from the creator. Whenever a work of art is owned by a well-known celebrity, it tends to command more attention and demand, thus causing the price to go up.
The history of the piece
The exhibition history of the artwork in question also greatly affects the price it will be sold for. If your artwork has ever been exhibited in a museum or you’ve had the fortune of hosting your own show in a well-known gallery, then it stands to reason that your work will sell for a higher price. Why? That’s because an exhibited work already has credibility and validation from the institution that carried it, which adds to its value immensely.
The art market
Finally, the art market affects the value of all artwork, whether new or old. You may have created a masterpiece by your standards. However, if no one is interested in buying it, your artwork doesn’t actually hold a lot of monetary value. When the economy is good, people are more likely to invest in art and other items that are considered a luxury. However, whenever the market is volatile, the demand declines and could even cause a highly-priced artwork to dramatically lower in value.
Practical tips for pricing your art
Carry out your market research
Now that you know the factors that affect the price of the artwork, you will then need to price it correctly. If you are pricing your work for the first time or haven’t been creating art for long and aren’t sure if your prices are optimal, a good first step to take would be to vary out your market research.
Try and find other artists in your niche that are selling artwork and determine how much they’ve successfully sold their piece for. Once you figure out a number, you will then be able to assign a value of how much your own artwork might be worth. When carrying out your market research, you will quickly discover that no matter what market you are targeting, whether that’s a local, regional or international market, all types of art by different artists have their price structure and that’s how to best assign a value to your work.
Remember to pay close attention to any artists that have career accomplishments and resumes that are similar to yours, as well as any artists that have been creating for as long as you have. Figure out how much these artists are charging for their art and it will give you a close estimate of how you should price yours.
Price based on your effort
If you are starting and you do not really have any sales experience, something else that you can do to determine the price of your artwork is to price it based on the effort that went into creating it. If this is the route you decide to take, ensure that you price your work based on how much time it took, the required labor, and the overall cost of the material used.
Be practical and realistic about your prices
You must pay yourself a reasonable wage in addition to the cost of materials utilized. However, you must also remember to remain practical. Maintaining objectivity will help you come up with prices that make sense. Try not to exaggerate your worth, especially if you have only been creating art for a short time.
Being honest with yourself may not be the easiest thing to do, but it is important. In this regard, you should base your prices based on facts and not feelings. Try not to confuse your subjective opinion about your art and how things are in real life.
To put it bluntly, you may think that you are as good as Van Gogh, but that doesn’t mean that you should price your artwork in Van Gogh’s price range. All art is unique in its way, shape, and form. Uniqueness, therefore, cannot be the only determining factor for pricing your artwork.
Are you selling it retail or wholesale?
When setting your prices, you will also need to determine whether you intend on selling your artwork wholesale or retail, which will automatically impact how you price your work. So what’s the difference between selling artwork wholesale or retail? When you sell art directly from your online store or your studio, you are selling it wholesale. However, when you sell your work through a gallery or an established dealer, that means that you are selling it retail.
If you don’t have a gallery or are not represented by one, it doesn’t make sense to price your work the same way a gallery would. When galleries price the artwork they have, there are too many considerations they have to pay attention to, including the overhead and the costs of upkeep. Some galleries mark up the prices as high as three times the original value of the work simply as a means of taking care of all the expenses associated with running a gallery.
Establish your price for commissioned works
Commissioned works offer excellent opportunities for artists. However, one must make sure that the commissioned work is priced adequately in line with what other artists are offering or selling in the market. If you sell a lot of custom orders, you want to make sure that you price your commissions reasonably so that you can attract a steady stream of customers.
Fortunately, you can use a lot of the same principles discussed above to price your commissions. If you specialize in creating custom portraits, take a look at what other portrait artists are doing in your location and establish a formula that would work for your individual pieces.
Try and think of long-term gains
It takes consistency for an artist to finally figure out what their price range is. When pricing their work, some artists think that going high will attract buyers who have money. Sadly, however, this strategy hardly ever works out in any situation. What’s the point of having ten paintings each priced at $3000 if no buyers are stepping up to purchase them? But if you start out pricing your work using these guidelines shared above, you can work your way up to higher prices as your orders get more steady and your credibility and customer base grows.
Set up an online shop
If you can, make sure that you set up an online store so that your extensive portfolio can be available to customers whenever they need to look at your offerings. When you have an online store, it also increases your chances of being found online by ready buyers or sellers. Having an online store is also easily the best way for buyers to purchase your art from any part of the globe.
Why it is important to price your artwork competitively
Apart from making sure that you are getting paid what you are worth, pricing your artwork competitively is essential for a couple of more reasons. For instance:
It helps to build your credibility
Buyers and collectors are always on the lookout for artists’ prices and their level of consistency. If there is no clear logic behind your prices, then you will find it almost impossible to attract buyers. Erratic prices are by far the easiest way to deter buyers, so try and be as consistent as possible with your prices to build your credibility and encourage more buyers.
Proper pricing helps you avoid legal problems
Proper pricing is sometimes required by entities such as banks and insurance companies. So it’s not enough to just price your paintings or artwork on a whim. If your pricing technique is all over the place, you will have a challenging time justifying your prices, especially to serious buyers like galleries and appraisers.
Increase the chances of selling
When you are straightforward with your prices, it establishes you as a trustworthy and professional artist. Buyers usually want fact-based pricing that can be easily explained. If you find it difficult to explain why you have priced your paintings the way you have, you will experience an even harder time offloading them at your price.
If you are not entirely sure how to price your work, don’t worry. That’s something that a lot of artists struggle with, especially during the early stages of their journey. These comprehensive tips shared above, though, should help you put an objective price tag on your works based on your style, material used, as well as your overall popularity as an artist in your niche.