The jump from your studio into the real world: How to price your artwork?
Updated: May 25
As an artist, this is what you do: create desirable, collectible art. But pricing your artwork is another story. The step from a good artist to a successful entrepreneur who understands what’s happening in the real world where things are bought and sold is not straightforward. Based on our ten-year experience of working with artists and art venues, we intend to describe in this article the importance of proper pricing and the best practices in these regards.
WHERE TO START:
Especially if you consider yourself an emerging artist, you should start with a few simple questions that will help with planning your art career, including your pricing strategy:
Do I intend to sell my artwork?
Is this just a hobby, or do I expect to live off it?
Who will buy my art?
Which segment of the art market my creations belong to?
How will I promote / publish my art?
These simple questions will help clarify if you intend to “stay in the game”. Once this decision is made, you should move to the next level.
A LITTLE BIT OF ART ECONOMICS:
“Art is only worth what someone will pay for it. Nothing is worth anything until it actually sells, and someone hands you the money and takes your art in exchange.” says Jack White, a contemporary well-known artist from Texas, USA who has written several books on art marketing.
As in any other industry, the market forces dictate how much a piece of art is worth. There are two sides of the equation:
The OFFER - the product of the creative process on the artists’ side
The DEMAND - the actual process of purchasing, driven by the art collectors / buyers
Between these two, there are many players involved: dealers, galleries, agents, publishers, auction houses, appraisers, buyers and collectors. They all play an important role in influencing the criteria for pricing the art. They will find ways to compare it, categorise it, measure it and finally establish its market value.
You have an idea of what your art is worth, the market has an idea of what your art is worth, and in order to have a sale happening, both sides have to agree on a price structure that makes sense. Mind you, the “pricing criteria” determined by the other players might have more to do with what's going on in the marketplace than with you as an artist.
TWO PRACTICAL WAYS OF LOOKING AT ART PRICING:
Being able to justify your pricing will help both sides (art collectors and artists) to buy & sell the actual artwork. Thus, you need to decide the criteria you will use to determine the pricing.
Gathered from our clients at Fine Art Imaging studio, below are two pricing techniques to consider:
A. Price by Size (square centimeter / square inch)
B. Price by Hourly rate (plus cost of materials)
A. Price by size – you start by doing your homework and find works similar with yours:
Step1_Define your market: where do you want to sell your art (locally, nationally, internationally). Make sure to cover both online and physical sales sites. Even if your intention is to sell only virtually, visiting galleries, open studios and other art venues will help tremendously to see the “competition” work in real life.
Step2_Identify artists that create similar art (the more the better): categorise these by how long they have been on the market, by their career accomplishments, number of exhibitions, artistic studies etc.
Step3_Create a bracket of prices: put on a scale the average price-per-square-cm published by your reference artists (identified in Step 2) from the smallest to the highest. Find your place on this scale being objective about your art and your experience. Be honest with yourself and base your pricing on facts, not feelings. This exercise could also help to see where you can get in the future.
This is a pricing by comparison which works in the great majority of cases. You evaluate the reputation and other (rather subjective) factors associated to the artist(s) that you consider as reference, and… ta-dah! you come up to a conclusion translated into “price-per-square-cm”.
B. Price by hourly rate – consider yourself working for your studio as a job and do the math:
For example, if you calculate to pay yourself 20EUR per hour, and it takes 20 hours to make the art, plus 30EUR cost of materials, then the price of this artwork would be: 430EUR (20EUR X 20 hours + 35EUR cost of materials).
If, after using this formula, it turns up that your prices are higher or lower compared to the market (see Steps 1 to 3 above), it does not necessarily mean that you should change them, but it will give you a very valuable indication.
You could obviously make this model as simple or as complicated as you wish, but we cannot stress enough how important is to have a pricing algorithm and systematically applying it. Having a plan will work in your advantage!