Art has creative and emotional value, but it is also purchased and sold as a commodity. This combination makes it tricky when trying to decide how to price your art. One key to remember is that art is collectible. Like any other collectible, certain factors determine its value within a market of purchasers and sellers.
Can you increase the value of your artwork?
Start by pricing your artwork within the framework of the established art market. Try to exhibit your artwork in more venues and in public venues, growing the publicity of your practice. Though the topic is complicated, this in a nutshell is one of the simplest ways to gradually increase the market value of your work.
Need help getting more art exhibitions? Check out Approaching an Art Gallery: The Initial Email (an Example of What to Send)
What determines art market value?
Many factors play into art market value, and you can use them to help you decide how to price your art. Here are some of the most common.
Do non-profit, artist-run, or non-commercial institutions have an interest in your work? Having an exhibition history in non-profit spaces can increase the “cultural value” of your work, which in turn can affect the “collect-ability” and in turn the monetary value of your work.
History of sales.
Put simply, the records of your past sales are used to justify your current value.
The sales histories of other artists whose medium, body of work, exhibition history, gallery representation, or career stage are similar to yours can be used to determine your market value. This is one of the best strategies for and more important thing to pay attention to when figuring out how to price your art.
Pricing your artwork appropriately within the contemporary art market based on the factors above is important. It’s a step in establishing your long-term monetary and cultural value within the art market.
Mistakes to avoid when deciding how to price your art
Pricing your art too low in the hopes of making a sale.
Many artists who rely on sales for their livelihood would take a low sale over no sale. In a way you can’t blame them. If selling art is your only income and you need to eat, the math is simple. However, in the long run, pricing your art too low at any time devalues your overall artistic output. This hurts your long-term value. You can’t charge $1,000 for a painting because one person is willing to pay that, and then sell 5 more for $100 each. This is unethical and can ruin your credibility.
Pricing your art too high because you think “it’s that good” or you spend “that long” on it.
This is a tricky one. You might spend 6 months working on one painting, then figure because of your time it should be worth $15,000. However, if your history of sales is in the $250-$750 range, charging $15,000 for a work that took you a long time isn’t necessarily in your best interest. From one angle, yes, you should be paid for your time and materials. From another, few art collectors would be willing to invest $15,000 in a piece of artwork which has a very weak market value. In this case, the work would have weak market value because an outside appraiser would declare its fair market value based mostly on past sales and not on how long it took the artist to create. Thus, as the art market would see it, there is nothing to justify the $15,000 price tag.
Being inconsistent when pricing your art
Inconsistencies in pricing can make art buyers wary. Some inconsistencies could include offering big discounts, pricing similar works at different prices, or drastically increasing or decreasing your prices at any time.
So, what is the best strategy when deciding how to price your art?
Think about your value practically. An artist just starting out should have modest prices, even if you or other people think the work is “amazing.” For an emerging artist, your value should increase with each big exhibition or successful sales year (perhaps 5%). This way, your market value should naturally increase based appropriately on your artistic career and output.
Art Pricing Formulas
If you need more information about how to determine pricing your art, check out the formulas mentioned in this article.
Keep in mind, formulas like this which takes into consideration the materials cost and time spent is usually the lowest your art should sell for. It is a starting point if you’re a student or brand new artist with no exhibitions and no sales history. Art pricing formulas also don’t factor in extremes, such as extremely large or small works. Or works that take an extremely long or short amount of time to make.
What have you found helpful for establishing your market value as an artist?