In addition to the creative value of artwork, it is also purchased and sold as a commodity. Art is collectible. Like any other collectible, certain factors determine its value within a market of purchasers and sellers.
To price your artwork within the frame of the established art market, and to exhibit your artwork in more venues and in public venues is the best way to gradually increase the market value of your work.
What determines art market value?
- Exhibition history. 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 therefore monetary value of your work.
- History of sales. Put simply, the records of your past sales are used to justify your current value.
- Comparable markets. 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.
Pricing your artwork appropriately within the contemporary art market based on the factors above is a very important step in establishing your long-term monetary and cultural value within the art market.
The three major mistakes in pricing artwork are:
- Pricing 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, and 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 as this is unethical and can ruin your credibility.
- Pricing your work 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, let’s say for example, 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 in essence 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 with pricing. This 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 for pricing 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.” With each year or each major milestone, give yourself a small raise (perhaps 5-10%). This way, your market value should naturally increase based appropriately on your artistic career and output.
If you need input or advice about how to determine the fair market value of your artwork, below are some good articles offering information:
Art Prices – Price Your Work Realistically by ArtBusiness.com
How to Price Your Artwork by Marc Moss *note: any “formula” like this which takes into consideration the materials cost and time spent is usually the lowest your art should sell for if you are a student or brand new artist with no exhibitions and no sales history. With each and every exhibition or successful sales year, your value should increase.
What have you found helpful for establishing your market value as an artist?