Home Magazine An Artist Manual - How To Price Your Art

In recent years, artworks have become a proper commodity no different than any other. The art market has been building itself up to create a spectacular turnover, leaving almost everyone in the business at least a little influenced by it.

Although mostly indirectly, artists and their works have become the center of these transactions, giving art a business side that is stronger than ever before and inspiring young creatives to start thinking about their future a little more thoroughly. It is typically said about many artworks that they are invaluable and that the feelings they arouse is all that matters. Don't miss our latest article dedicated to discovering How digital is creating new smart ways to collect

While for the most part this is absolutely true, the headlines we find ourselves reading in the culture section of our newspaper more often than not talk about the millions a certain painting has just been sold for in a certain auction in London, New York or Hong Kong. To discuss a work of art nowadays means to discuss its price tag, and it is a reality in which we live, whether we like it or not.

For most artists, however, putting a dollar sign label on their beloved works is something unthinkable and quite incomprehensible; because to them, making artwork is all about an idea, a vision, the creative thought and process, evoking that emotion of which we talked earlier. For an artist, the selling and the buying is something that happens outside of their bubble, in the hands of someone else, and all they should and do care about is the piece itself and what it means, conveys, depicts.

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And many of them are lucky in that they indeed have a designated person liberating them of even knowing about what happens to their work once it is released into the “wilderness”. Others, especially the up-and-coming talents, usually have to learn how to price art themselves, and on their own. Without a single idea of how to reach a certain amount, they are faced with a seemingly impossible task: finding the balance between being underpriced and overpriced.

The good news is, as with everything that ever goes on sale, there is an unofficial formula created by the professionals in the field according to which one should price their artwork and not take random, unfounded guesses. 



So, How To Price Your Art?

There are a few tips and pointers that any artist at any stage in their career can successfully apply in order to put a correct price on their artworks, be it a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a drawing, a print or anything else. These can end up owned by a varied clientele - you can either sell directly to a buyer in your studio, through agents or dealers, in an exhibition or at an art fair, but in any case, to do so, a price - and a reasonable one - must be decided.

Perhaps the most obvious and the most important advice would be to draw a clear line between yourself and the art that you make. Many artists get too attached to their work, think too high of it and consider it much more valuable than it actually is because of how personal it might be. While they of course have every right to do so, pricing artworks based on feelings is never a good idea and should be avoided. If a work you created is a special one, perhaps it’s best that you do not sell it at all, and that you keep it in a personal collection instead.

Putting your finger on the right price comes as a result of a combination of outside factors. Sure, every artwork is unique, nevertheless they are all priced in accordance with certain rules that are to be followed by everyone. A good start would be for an artist to simply calculate production costs - how much is your time, your materials and your labor worth? Many suggest that giving yourself “an hourly wage” can also contribute to a clearer picture of actual resources you spent making artworks, although you shouldn’t be too “generous” to yourself in this case either.

This comes as “a natural prelude” to what could be the next step, which is “finding your place within the art world” - meaning that there are other artists out there creating similar work, the similar way, and in a similar area, and you can see how much their works are going for. You can research them online, visit their studios or exhibitions, and hear their opinions and experiences firsthand. Your art will never be comparable to theirs, but if you have many things in common, it should be easier for you to keep an open mind and correctly price your art.

Another criteria that should be taken into consideration is your own portfolio, which should be the basis of your being reasonable and objective about the value of your work. How long have you been making art? Are you doing it consistently and regularly? These two adverbs could also be used as adjectives to describe your prices: once they buy from you, your clients will expect you to remain in a certain price range. And speaking of price range, this is also a good idea. Creating a diverse oeuvre that offers cheaper works alongside those that are more expensive will likely increase your sales altogether, creating a stable micro art market from which everyone would benefit.


Art dealer Wally Findlay, Jr. (left) and artist Lê-Phổ (right) at the Wally Findlay Galleries


What About Raising the Prices?

If an artist’s career is doing well, there will come a time when raising the prices might be a good idea. The artworks are selling on a regular basis, the exhibitions are lining up (whether group or solo), and the production is going smoothly. Still and again, don’t let success get in your head. As expected, the numbers vary according to the demand, and the general advice is not to go over 25% of the current price.

In the end, those who buy art tend to do their own research before they go “shopping”, so being able to justify your price, be it the original one or the new one, is important, because you actually might have to at some point.



Selling Art Yourself vs Selling Through a Gallery

If you are pricing and ultimately selling your art yourself, you are also in change of marketing and promotion. Not having a website in this day and age is practically unthinkable, and having one that is constantly up to date is the way to go. Estimating the value of an artwork is an important part of the sale, but so is presenting it to their future owner in the right manner. Use your website and social media networks to tell your story, as well as the story of your artwork, and be sure that its price is always on display, as buyers definitely appreciate honesty and transparency.

Talking about past sales and showing sold artworks is also recommended, but artists should be smart about the time and the place in which to bring these topics. What you already managed to sell will surely help sales to come, but “overselling” artworks that already belong to someone else to those who are interested in what’s present now might touch the wrong nerve with them.
For those with a gallery representation, things work a little differently. Galleries are the one who come up with the prices, and these also include the work they do in your place. This is why their final figure is by default higher and why they will take a (previously arranged) percentage of the sale. This does not mean that the same work should be sold for less on your website or from your studio, out of respect for your gallerist and the overall deal-making process.


David Teniers the Younger, The Artist in his Workshop, 1635. Image via Wikipedia


Pricing Different Media

As we know, the variety of the kinds of art an artist can make is a beautiful one. On the money side of things, this too represents a certain pricing parameter. Artworks such as paintings and sculptures are rarely made in series and usually consist of a single example, meaning that they will be priced higher. Other media, like photography and prints, are typically produced in numerous copies, which is why their value is lower in comparison - and the more works there are, the more people have them, the less sought-after they are. The exact opposite, of course, goes for all the non-edition artworks.

Furthermore, factors such as materials, size, but also framing for example, naturally affect the price tag as well. A bigger piece made of more particular substance in a demanding way will simply cost more than another work that was “easier” to create. This is where the aforementioned formula of cost-assessment comes in handy - but remember, always in good spirit and within reason, though!

In the hopes that our little manual has made the problem of how to price your art go away, we wish you good luck in finding your buyers!


Stay Tuned to Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.