Top 10 Tips For Artists Pricing Their Work

Pricing your art can be one of the most anxiety producing things an artist does as a professional artist. The fear of undercharging or overcharging are cause for concern and should be well thought out before an artist approaches potential Galleries. I can say as a former Art Gallery owner and Art Consultant that a big pet peeve of Galleries and Consultants is inconsistent pricing by the artist and/or a separate price when sold through the artist studio than when sold through a Gallery.

As an artist, I understand the thinking of the artist and completely understand: However, I can say this can be a real deal breaker for a Gallery representing an artist. As an Art Gallery owner or Art Consultant, I need to feel confident that my collectors will be offered the same price if they try to go directly to the artist, otherwise, we have no business. We advertise, market and work hard to sell the work of the artist – that is our business, and when I find out an artist I represent sold directly to a collector at 50% or even 40% of the gallery listed price, I no longer will represent or sell that artist. The practice puts Galleries out of business. This isn’t to say you can’t offer a discount for loyal collectors or family members, but it must be clear that the price is the same in the studio as in a Gallery.

Also, inconsistency within the similar size and medium works of art are not a good idea and Galleries hate this. They need to be able to quote a price that is consistent with size, medium and subject as well as offer custom commissioned works that are in line with those prices. Just because painting #1 is of your favorite dog Blue, and you feel it is more special than the others, the price to the collector should be the same as painting #2 of the same size and a different dog.

  1. Price your work the same price in Gallery as out of Studio
  2. Be Consistent with your prices regarding size, medium, subject.
  3. Works on paper generally sell for less than works on panel or canvas. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, that is the hierarchy of art. A 12 x 12" watercolor on paper will generally sell for less than a 12 x 12" oil on panel.
  4. Start low to get your work out there - it is far better to sell out and have to raise your prices than to have to lower the prices because your work is not selling.
  5. Be flexible with Art Galleries and Art Consultants - they may have larger projects that require custom sizes or commissioned work.

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  6. Be prepared for discounts, this is a very common practice with Galleries and Consultants and you need to be up front with your representatives on how much is appropriate and where does that come from? Is the discount split evenly between Artist and Gallery or is the Gallery taking the discount out of their commission.
  7. Never price your art lower than your actual costs of materials + an amount you will be happy about. It is better to wait and not sell the art that year and have it eventually go to a good home willing to pay what the artist is worth. There are collectors out there that value art and know it's value and do not hesitate to spend the money on an artwork that means something to them.
  8. Don't be afraid to raise your prices. Once the demand for you work outpaces your output, it is definitely time to raise your prices. When there are new and important milestones like a major Art Residency, Solo Show, or Museum Exhibition are all good indicators it may be time to raise your prices. Do not however raise your prices every time you get an exhibition. Your prices should be consistent with where you are in your career and the collector interest in your work as well as be in line with the Galleries that are representing your work. If you are lucky enough to get into an A list Gallery and they suggest you raise your prices, they know their market and it is time to raise your prices. This means sending a letter to other Galleries and collectors announcing the new Gallery representation and subsequent raise in prices. This is exciting news to collectors and they feel they're work is probably worth more than they paid. It is also an incentive to collectors to hurry up and buy a new piece from you as your career takes off.
  9. Remember that pricing too low undervalues your art, time, creativity and how can you expect someone else to value it if you don't. When I first started my Art Gallery, Shelley Hall Gallery in a small town in Oregon, I had a lot of local artist's who were pricing their work far too low. They thought it needed to be low to sell, yet they weren't selling any works. They were showing for free at local coffee shops. I told two of the artist's to double their prices and both sold works through my gallery within a few weeks. The artists were both shocked and thrilled and were already gaining a sense of confidence as a professional artist.
  10. It's Not Personal. The work that was created out of a broken heart and traumatic experience is a thing the artist created, it is not personal. If you are not interested in selling something because it is "Too special" then keep it to yourself - this is yours and should not be a part of the package of artwork you send to prospective Galleries. Only show available work.

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