It is a tricky wee subject. Why does Art cost what it does? Why do we value Art the way we do? There are a number of factors involved in pricing Art and in this blog we shed the light of why it can be so expensive.
Bear in mind as you stand in the gallery looking at a finished piece of work, presented to you in its final completeness. You may view it as something simplistic but consider these points. How did the artist get to this? What did it take to produce this?
Artists can spend months or years developing, training, producing, experimenting and finalising. Good artists take their time, they have something they want to tell you and they will ensure the final product achieves what it needs to. The finished piece of work may look basic, it may be small and it may not have taken vast amounts of time to produce but good preparation does take time. Artists will fill endless sketchbooks, take 1000’s of photographs, spend hours in their studios experimenting to reach a point of clarity and completion. If you are looking at a piece of work that you don’t consider worthy of its price tag, take a step back and consider what your own time is worth? If you were going to work 5 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, what would you expect to earn? What value would you want someone to place on your time and efforts?
Art materials cost. Artists need to keep themselves in a good supply to produce the work. Often, the initial outlay for canvases, paper, pencils, paint, tools, studio rental, equipment, frames are massive. What artists do is produce work for you – the viewer. They are taking time developing to incite an emotion in you, make a connection with you and have an effect on you. They are willing to spend their hard earned cash and time to do that for you. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t work! But, for an artist getting you in front of that piece of art is worth every penny!
Willem de Kooning's 1955 oil painting 'Interchanged'
I don’t, and have never, encouraged someone to buy work as an investment. Yes, if you consider that De Kooning piece Griffin bought, it cost him $300 million, but it was previously purchased for $20.7 million in 1989. That’s a pretty serious profit and a good way for the uber-rich to invest. We don’t do that here. Sure, it would be nice! However I am involved in the arts because I love it when a person falls in love with a piece of work They appreciate its value and want to live with it daily. It’s precious. They are inviting something special into their homes, into their lives! Maybe certain works are not for you, but that does not mean they are not for someone else and less valuable because it is not to your taste! What you do invest in is that specific artists practice and the time they have taken to produce for you.
But I Could Do That!
The fact is that no, you couldn’t and no, you didn’t. Opinions matter and it is one of the things that makes the art world so exciting. You love it or you hate it. It encourages debate, conversation, engagement and thought. I can’t bear hearing that statement! Sure, you may be skilled enough to replicate it aesthetically but you did not conceptualise it, develop it or produce it. Therefore you will never be able to ‘do’ that but if you think you can why don’t you grab some paints and start your own art journey. Its an exciting prospect, isn’t it? Develop your own style, your own techniques, go out to research and experience and produce something someone else might see as ‘valuable.’
I mean there are loads, such as, travel to and from locations, galleries, studios, marketing. It cost a fortune to tell people about yourself. I mean jeezo, I paid nearly £1000 for 2 pages of A4 PAPER. Is that worth that money? Maybe not but it did the job! That place that you are viewing work in, the gallery, are spending hours finding artists, communicating with artists, hanging work, sourcing crafts, striving to make sure you have a great experience in a great space. I’ve heard stories about the value of a cup of tea. No a tea bag does not cost £2 but the staff, shop costs, utilities etc do. Don’t be the person that argues that fact!
My advice for artists pricing, be realistic but DO NOT undersell yourself.
The three things to consider
- Cost of Materials – how much did you invest to produce this piece?
- Your Time - Make sure you do not undervalue it!
- Value within the marketplace - What is gallery commission? Is someone producing similar work at a similar cost?
Art doesn’t have a clear and present base value. You can’t eat it or use it as shelter. At a pinch, you could theoretically burn some of it to keep warm, but that’s not worth much. The price of a piece of art is essentially based on what people agree is its worth. That’s it! If you’re in the gallery and you struggle to accept the cost of something, let us know! We would be delighted to talk you through it, tell you about the artist, how that piece came to be and why it is worth what it is worth!