Pricing art

Artyczar

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How do you price your art? How would you give advice to beginning artists to price theirs?

Some artists charge by the square inch. Some base it on size and materials, plus an hourly wage. How do you decipher your prices?
 
I take a size that I have been satisfied with the price charged and do a square inch formula on it and go from there on other sizes. I try to keep it reasonable, not cheap but not beyond what the market can bear. I would give the beginner the same advise. Decide on what they would feel comfortable charging for a certain size on a certain painting and work out their square foot formula.
 
A friend of mine, Richard Wientzek, who's making a living solely from his painting and drawing since the year 2000, once told me, that in Germany most galleries use this formula: length + width [in cm that is!] then multiplied by the so-called "gallery-factor", which depends on your current market-value, gives the prize in Euros. (unless you're Gerhard Richter, of course.)

That was the case with his paintings for a long time, but it's many years since he told me [I seem to remember, that his "gallery-factor" was about 13 or 14 then]. I'm not sure if by now his gallery just "asks" a prize or whatever. (In the past years he did not do much painting, as for some reason collectors went crazy for his drawings.)
 
It is very difficult when the market for art in general, or your art starts tanking and you're faced with having to ask less for your work. It's not exactly "fair" to the collectors you've sold to in the past that have paid top dollar and considered it an investment in you. It's bad PR. It is a strike to the ego. It means you are worth less, your work is less meaningful, your reputation isn't as important--the whole nine. It sucks all around.

Personally, I've refused to cut prices based on the above depressing downers. In the 2008 economic crisis, I held my prices and just froze them where they were. I didn't raise them for years, but also didn't "lower" them. I did "discounts," which has a different social appearance, I guess you could say. The retail price tag stayed the same, but the gallery, or I, would give courtesy discounts of 20%-25% and if necessary, private sales were done for even less, depending on the collector, or how many pieces were being purchased, etc.

The whole point is to hike up the price with the economy (one would think), but in the art world, it's its own animal of course. The more important collections you get into, or the more you show in museums or get prestigious awards, the more you can hike the price up because it's all about perception and the reputation of the artist. It's all about PR and how well the gallery promotes your name and your work. And some galleries/sellers do this better than others.

This might seem to be the case only in the art world, and in a way it's true, but really, it's not that much different than many other "products" in the economy. Cupcakes, donuts, cars, pet rocks, houses, toilets, you name it, if someone markets something to be more special than something else that's essentially the same thing, it can sell for a lot more money and people think they need it--and will pay the price, despite quality. It's the "name brand" in clothing, or whatever else that people will pay for. It's marketing and perception. I guess, because I know this, it's why I try to hold on and just wait until the right buyer comes along and never fold on selling for so much less in desperate times. It might be a stupid thing to do, but that's what I've been doing for decades. Does it pay off? Probably not. :LOL:

I have a tier system for pricing the art, depending on the materials and size, but I factor in how it compares to my peers who have similar sales histories and resumes and knowing what people will pay. I can't go too high, but I can't go too low. I can't increase too much or I'll screw myself in future sales because of the past. It's quite the balancing act. I raise the price very slowly over many years depending on my accomplishments and past sales. I have to factor in all these things and can't do a square-inch or hourly wage system anymore, but at least it is consistent with size and materials.

Whew, that was long.
 
It's the "name brand" [...] that people will pay for.
Exactly. It saddens me so often to see so much excellent work out there not valued, while so many average pieces are hyped by the masses, get all the attention, the press - oh, and the money.
Youtube is a perfect example for both.
 
I was at an auction to buy vintage and a very well locally known artist's piece came up and went for under $100, and his normal pricing is near $10K. It was huge, abstract, and part of an estate. It just was not the market for it. What sells there are Wyeth prints, landscapes and watercolors of local things along with hooked rugs and quilts. I hate to think if that auction comes up under his name and hurt him. I bet he had no idea. I tried to get word to him when I saw it there but our mutual friend couldn't reach him in time.
 
A friend of mine, Richard Wientzek, who's making a living solely from his painting and drawing since the year 2000, once told me, that in Germany most galleries use this formula: length + width [in cm that is!] then multiplied by the so-called "gallery-factor", which depends on your current market-value, gives the prize in Euros. (unless you're Gerhard Richter, of course.)
...
Given this formula, my "gallery-factor" is a little less than 0.3 but then again, I don't sell much. Such is this trials of life. I'm thankful for what I have and the life I've led.
 
Pricing by the size of the painting always struck me as odd. It makes me think of booksellers who sell old books "by the foot" to interior designers. Books sold according to the amount of shelf space they take up. Whether they're masterpieces or remainders.

"I'm doing a ranch in Malibu, I need 200 feet of dark colored spines." 😐

But I suppose it's more like the (old) record industry. One LP is $X, a double LP is $XX, a box set is $Z. All pretty much the same regardless of quality or how many years of your life were spent making the music in the grooves.
 
Pricing by the size of the painting always struck me as odd. It makes me think of booksellers who sell old books "by the foot" to interior designers. Books sold according to the amount of shelf space they take up. Whether they're masterpieces or remainders.
I feel the same way. But the arguments for it go "if one piece is priced more, then the others would be perceived as inferior (chopped liver).
And one man's masterpiece is another's landfill.

Not sure those arguments hold up. So, for now, I'm keeping my very best pieces off-market. Might not be that smart of a move, but then I'm not all that smart when it comes to marketing and promoting.

I think the leveler comes when(if) the painting goes on the secondary market - when the original owner sells it. There you see prices vary by the desirability, not the tale of the tape.
 
But I suppose it's more like the (old) record industry. One LP is $X, a double LP is $XX, a box set is $Z. All pretty much the same regardless of quality or how many years of your life were spent making the music in the grooves.

There is a difference. Good records make more money because they sell more copies. So an artist might not make squat on one record then make a ton on the next even though both sell for the same price. But with painting - each work is one of a kind. Even though more people may look at one painting than another - conventional wisdom says they should be priced the same.
 
Yes, that's interesting about conventional wisdom. All records, despite how many copies sell, are all priced the same, more or less, each unit, that is. You can't price them after the fact once you know how popular they are until they sell out and it's on the secondary market like you pointed out with art. And you don't know how popular a piece of art will be with people until after you put the price on it, pricing it along with others that are similar. I mean, you can up the price after the fact, but it doesn't really look ethical.
 
There is a work-around though it has issues as well. Group work into sets that have different per/inch prices. So say Seascapes priced at $/inch and Cityscapes at $$/inch. But what if the work doesn't easily breakdown into sets, or within the set there are ones you consider worth more?

In my case, the "wall queens" - the ones I value more- are those where the elements just come together with a certain je ne sais quoi - at least to my eye - though maybe not to a casual observer.

My course of action is not to list those until I'm producing work of that quality on a regular basis - until that quality becomes my new normal.
 
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