The Price of Art

Last week I had two discussions about the price of art. I am always a little amazed at the manner in which people perceive art and what it should cost. So the topic of this blog is the price of Art. I want to address a couple of things, within this broader idea: one, the actual dollar amount that a piece of art costs and why, and what that means for the artist. I would also like to address the value of art, not how much it costs, but how much it is worth in the context of other things one might spend their money on.

First, The actual dollar amount of a piece of art-
I have to start out by saying that pricing art is a tricky business. There are no hard and fast rules that artists can use to price their work. There are a couple of factors that come into play. You have to look at the quality of the work, how long the artist has been in business, the reputation of the artist and what work has sold for in the past. You also have to take into account where you are trying to sell the work. I am a big believer in “The price is the price is the price.” The price should be the same on art work if the piece is hanging in a gallery or in the artist’s studio. I digress. Back to the price of art. Lets look at why art is priced the way it is. Original art is not inexpensive. Usually the better known and more talented an artists is, the more they can ask for their art work. Several people recently have told me that they feel the art work in the gallery is too expensive. I hope to put it into perspective. Lets say that an artist has a show scheduled with a gallery. They are asked to put in 10 pieces. The average price per piece is $1000.00. So if all of the pieces sell (the likelihood of that is slim) the gallery will have brought in $10,000.00 for that artists work. Off the top the gallery keeps half. After all, the gallery sold the work, paid the employees to hang and market the work, paid the rent on the gallery, bought the ads to promote the work and more. So the artist gets to take home $5000.00. Sounds great right, hold on, lets look at a few more things. We are going to assume that we are talking about a full time artist. Lets say that the artist spent $500.00 on supplies: paints, canvases, etc. Lets says that the artist spent another $500.00 on frames. So now the artist is taking home $4000.00. Oh wait, what about studio space? Artists can’t usually work in their living rooms, so lets say it took 3 months to create these 10 pieces. The artist has an inexpensive studio and only spends $300.00 on studio rental. So now, the artist is taking home 3700.00. If we take that money and divide it out to an hourly wage it comes to about $7.70/hr. People who work at McDonalds make more. And this is all figured if all the paintings sell at the full retail price and there are no additional expenses. There is a reason that the term “starving artist” is so popular. It is not easy to make a living as an artist.

Lets briefly take a look at the pricing of work specifically in PS:Gallery. One of the things I strive to do is to have strong art in my gallery. I pride myself on having great artists and having new work from those artists. At this moment in the gallery I have artwork ranging from $250.00 – $4200.00. I think that every piece is priced fairly. A few years ago Chris Stevens and I traveled to Santa Fe. It was a great trip. We saw great, great art. One thing in particular that struck me while we were there was the prices of art. Most of the galleries did not have any work that was under $3000.00. That was the beginning. It was not unusual in the least to see pieces in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t get me wrong I am not being critical. The work was worth what they were asking. My point is, that when you look at art galleries across the country I think you will see that for the quality and type of artwork that we show, our prices are fair.

Two-The value of art
As with the pricing of art, the value of art is subjective and often debated. I am one who places high value on original art. Unlike solely decorative things, I get more than just an object that is pleasing to the eye. I see more every time I look. I have an emotional connection to my art. I know the artists and understand what some of the intention was behind the work. I understand that there are people who will never value art. I also understand that there are people who like art but are not sure they should make obtaining art a priority. There are many people who feel they cannot “afford art”, this section is for you. If you value art, I will show you how you can afford art (if you are currently unemployed, or are struggling to pay rent, you can not afford art).

If you have ever stopped at a piece of art and said to yourself “I wish I had money for that” I have a mission for you. Starting next month, take $25.00 every month and put it into an art savings account. Have it withdrawn automatically if you don’t think you can follow through. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will add up and eventually you will again, find yourself looking at a fabulous piece of art and wishing you had money, this time you will be prepared. Most galleries offer layaway, so even if you don’t have enough money saved, you have a down payment and can stretch out payments on the rest. We even offer interest free financing for those who qualify. You can make payments for up to nine months. That painting seems more affordable when you think about $120.00 per month instead of $1000.00. Think about it this way, if you go out for coffee four times a week, you spend on average 3.00/day, if you only saved that money, you would have enough to buy one new piece of art per year. Go out to eat two less times per month, get your hair cut every 5 weeks instead of 4. Drive your old car for a few more months instead of taking on a new car payment. Don’t buy that third big screen TV (or maybe even the first). Art is forever, it doesn’t spoil, it won’t expire, it won’t die. If you buy pieces you love, the hope is you will always love them. If your desire is to add art to your life, there are ways it can happen. I hope that this post has helped clarify the price and value of art. I look forward to reading your comments.

Jennifer Perlow


2 Responses to “The Price of Art”

  1. 1 Ron
    July 17, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Great blog…Now I have to quit going to Starbucks and come by the Gallery!

  2. 2 Elaine
    July 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Great post, Jennifer! Of course I am biased, but this is a conversation that I think needs to be had again and again.

    Art is an investment in beauty and an acknowledgment of what is unique– about ourselves as much as the pieces we choose to surround ourselves with.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I hope to set a new benchmark to define adulthood: when you have the vision to see yourself in a piece of art, the ingenuity to finance it and the courage to hang it– THEN you are an adult. Of course the scale of purchase will vary as widely as that of the the cars we choose, but I think art is to identity what cars are to mobility.

    One last thing– ask, ask, ask! It's OK not to know as much about art as you do about football–if you are intrigued enough to have questions anyone who loves art would love to talk with you about it (and wouldn't next Friday, ARTrageous Friday, be a good place to start?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: