Discounting your art

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Tony Max wrote, “I have dozens of galleries handling my work. How do you prevent dealers from giving significant discounts when they sell your consigned work, thus depreciating it in the eyes of your other dealers and your trusting followers?”

Thanks, Tony. You might consider asking your discounting dealers to phone you when they’re thinking of giving someone a deal. This request makes dealers aware of your ownership rights and often helps them to make sales. My limit is about 10%, and there are four main reasons I consider giving a discount:

The customer is buying more than one of my paintings.

The customer is a regular and loyal supporter of the gallery.

The customer is a registered charity or non-profit entity.

The customer is my mom.

Since the advent of the Internet, savvy customers soon find an artist’s standard prices and scout the best prices across an artist’s stable of dealers. Further, they quickly note dealers who offer work with the prices fudged up. This false pricing or profiteering is defended by some dealers to give them wiggle room for further discounting. It may seem like smart marketing, but the practice tends to make it more difficult for the fudging dealers to do business. Gently encourage your dealers to stick by your standard, published prices.

Many folks who collect art are hardwired for deal-making. Particularly these days, some tough customers feel both artists and dealers are vulnerable and try to get them to really sharpen their pencils. Very often these customers can be satisfied if the dealer throws in the frame or absorbs any sales taxes or shipping charges. To their credit, some dealers never budge. Good dealers manage our mutual business with integrity.

Further, quite a few cash deals are floating around these days. Folks, particularly those who receive cash in the underground economy are walking in with bundles and demanding discounts. I feel this is the dealer’s business, and I don’t interfere with it, but I still expect to be paid the proper amount by cheque. Genn’s Law No. 1 says, “When taxes are seen to go high, buyer morality is seen to go low.” Incidentally, Genn’s law No. 2 says, “The more you pay your accountant, the less you pay the government.” It’s really a very pleasant and balanced world when you think about it.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “I’m quite encouraged at our success and have to thank you for the good management that has produced it.” (Winslow Homer to his dealer, Gustav Reichard)

Esoterica: One of my dealers recently had a customer who low-balled one of my better paintings. I suggested we take the painting off the market, and the dealer reluctantly sent it back to my studio. The customer, with all his bluff, came back to the gallery, found the painting missing from the place it had hung for several weeks, and hastily bought another and paid the full price. Two excellent things a dealer can say to a customer are, “Yes, you can have it,” and “I’m sorry, it’s gone.”

Power game
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic

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“Rough edge”
wood sculpture by Norman Ridenour

There are people who are only marginally interested in the art but highly concerned with the discount. It is a game of power, control and status. Many of them live in the most affluent neighborhoods.

Always have a contract
by Carol Lyons, Irvington, NY, USA

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“Higher Horizons”
watercolour painting by Carol Lyons

Read the latest book, The Artist-Gallery Partnership by Tad Crawford and Susan Mellon. Everything related to the business aspect of art is in it. Bottom line: have a written contract. Plus you, as the artist, may be able to add any other provisions that will clarify understanding and the gallery may accept them.

Gallery out of business
by Amy Haratani

Recently, a gallery that handled my paintings went out of business without informing me. I was able to retrieve the paintings that had not sold, but have not been paid for one that sold at Christmas. How do I get the gallery owner to pay me what he owes me? The agreement stated that he would pay me within thirty days after the sale.

(RG note) Thanks, Amy. Could be dodgy. When this has happened to me, I’ve tried the gallery owner’s sense of good will and fair play, sometimes to no avail, particularly if there’s a bankruptcy. Bankruptcy permits people to walk away from honouring obligations. At the slightest hint of trouble ahead you need to warn your similarly affected colleagues, go and get your work, get written evidence that debts will be paid, and try to be understanding of the dealer’s situation.

Have we created this monster?
by Bonny Current, Wolcott, CT, USA

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“Rare Treat”
watercolour painting by Bonny Current

It’s interesting that people will come into our gallery and ask if we can “do any better” on a piece, as if it is an understood practice. Have we done this to ourselves by giving the occasional 10% off or offering any sort of special “pricing” for a day? I wonder. I don’t go to a doctor or any other professional and ask if they can do any better on their fee. The question comes then, have we created this monster and should we all take a stand and say no more!? Then the artist in me says — I just want to paint and I need to move my work to make room for new and buy more materials. It is a puzzle.


There are 5 comments for Have we created this monster? by Bonny Current

From: Anonymous — Feb 18, 2011

I owned a gallery for over 4 years. That is one thing I don’t miss. When people would ask me that type of question, I would want to ask in return: Do you tell your employer, or whoever pays you, that it is fine to give you 10% or 15% less than you normally receive for your time and talents?

From: David — Feb 18, 2011

Barter is honorable; ask such customers what they can give you in lieu of the cash difference. This can open many doors as long as you get enough cash for your artists. Some folks just LOVE to make a deal.

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

My gallery simply says, “Sorry we have a non-discount contract with this artist.” “If you have purchased more than one of his paintings you are considered a collector and entitled to a 10% discount on all future purchases.”

From: Tony Max — Feb 18, 2011

You compared art discounts to doctors’ discounts.

You’re comparing apples to oranges.

Doctors’ services are always in demand, and doctors’ fees are regulated by the government The Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons regulates the number of doctors who enrol in the doctors; training programs to ensure that there’s no oversupply of doctors. There’s no corresponding government-mandated licensing of fine artists to ensure that there’s no oversupply of fine artists.

Doctors’ fees and services are tightly controlled by the government and are considered to be among the most essential services of society. Artists’ fees are unregulated because art qualifies as luxury items – not a necessity.

From: Victor Wren — Feb 19, 2011

I’m heartened when I hear others make the case for me about taking discounted wages, so I don’t have to. I’ve known some people who wanted to haggle over the price of a toothbrush, so I agree, it’s less about the money and more about the “art of the deal.” And Mr. Max? There’s a few folks on here reading from a little patch of dirt between Manitoba and Chihuahua where none of what you say about doctor fees applies. I think the place even has an art gallery or two.

What to do with the leftovers?
by Marsha Hamby Savage, Smyrna, GA, USA

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“Forest edge”
oil painting by Marsha Savage

So, I do get the point of this letter but what do you do with all the leftovers? I mean those paintings that you think are good, the ones that have been to the galleries and did not find their owner? Or those paintings you did as demonstrations, plein air pieces or the half done work you really like that way. I am a prolific painter and accumulate many pieces that are too good to destroy. I do donate some work to charities but only a couple a year. I have given them to family and even sold them to extended family for very low prices because they are “dirt poor.”

I am planning a “clean out the studio” Internet sale. I don’t do this very often. Maybe I did it five years ago. Do you think this is wrong? I don’t.

(RG note) Thanks, Marsha. You need to be very careful about cleaning out the studio. I’d rather get rid of them in the fireplace than sell them directly, particularly at fire-sale prices. Save the ultra personal ones for your estate or give them to appreciative friends or relatives.


There are 3 comments for What to do with the leftovers? by Marsha Hamby Savage

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Feb 17, 2011

Robert, thanks for your comment. I really have agonized over this. I agree with one of the above letters about have we created this monster. I think some galleries have because of offering a discount. So, it has made everyone think they can get work for less. But, again about the leftovers, I appreciate your remarks.

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

Only very chosen friends get a discount from me, and only because I’d love to see my work in their homes. They are sworn to secrecy :-)

Keep the good ones as an archive, and sell them at a reasonable price when the opportunity arrives. Review them once a year and have a bonfire. Robert is correct, the minute you start discounting your in trouble with galleries and your public. Best to give them away, all artists have that prerogative

From: Leslie Anderson — Feb 18, 2011

I recent did a studio cleaning and donated eleven pieces to a local agency that manages low-income and homeless transitional housing. They were thrilled to be able to upgrade the common spaces in some of their properties, and I feel good that the work is on walls where lots of people will see it. Everyone wins.

Sell like you don’t need the money
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada

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“MW2”
acrylic painting by John Ferrie

Unlike you, Robert, most of us don’t have galleries clamouring to carry our work. Nor do we have a steady income where we can count on our income from being an artist. Sometimes a paying client is a luxury and especially when the economy tanks, it can be like an oasis in the desert. I represent myself and market and promote all of my own work. My mom happens to be my best sales man and brings me more clients than I can count. So, Mom gets better than 10% off.

First of all, you have to sell like you don’t need the money. I have my art listed on my website and I present my latest paintings in a yearly exhibition. But sometimes when I look at my old inventory, I have a few simple solutions to move the work and make some cash. There is the Eastside culture crawl in Vancouver where thousands of people come through 300 open studios in Vancouver in November. I know that these people are art lovers, but most are not art buyers. For this, I lower my prices. From there I have been known to put my work on Craigslist and have even found people looking for my work there.

And finally, when my rent has been due, and I need the money, a cash sale is a welcoming thing. They say to never sell yourself short, but as an artist, you can always paint another piece. Being evicted because your rent is short is a difficult bell to un-ring. Lucky enough, my hand to mouth days are a thing of the past.

You have to stick to being an artist and paint like nobody is watching.


There are 3 comments for Sell like you don’t need the money by John Ferrie

From: David — Feb 18, 2011

John, You speak the truth man. I love your attitude! Keep the ball rolling !

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

This economy sucks. But discounting does not help, only an economic recovery will work. I’ve not sold a painting for over a year. One of my galleries has gone from 14 in personal to 2. Works have been placed on the largest auction site in Denmark without sales (by one of my galleries). Before this crash I sold 20-45 paintings per year on average (no discounts). It’s the market and there is no cure except time. It’s always been tough for painters, why should 2010-2011 be any better.

From: John Ferrie — Feb 19, 2011

To my new friend Joseph Jahn,

Art has always been a luxury item. Resolve yourself to the fact that 90% of the population won’t like your work. Of the 10% left over, only 5% can afford it. Of that 5%, it is the last thing they buy, after the house, the kids, the vacation and savings (and the wife will ALWAYS return what the husband brings home on his own). Selling art can be a challenge, but there are buyers out there! I always say “Be target specific” and that is sell to people who love your work! Do a studio show and invite ONLY your closest clients and ask them to bring a friend. I do interviews, have an artist talks, teach art classes to the wives of wealthy buyers. I also offer full service to my clients, crating, delivery, hanging…re-hanging, hanging other paintings…You would be amazed how people respond when you are detail driven. “God is in the details” I heard once….Good luck with your journey. John

The thrill of the chase
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada

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“Endings”
oil painting 36 x 48 inches
by Bridgitte Nowak

I don’t have Tony Max’s “dozens of galleries” though I found it interesting to visit his website to find a bold “35% off” banner on his home page! I have the good fortune of having several galleries that represent my work, and I give my dealers the discretion to discount my work up to 10% without contacting me. My feeling is that if that 10% discount is the difference between closing a sale and taking the work back to sit in my basement, I’d rather have the sale, and I should be able to trust my gallery to make the right decision for both of us. Above that 10% I’d like to be kept in the loop. That said, I have also left a gallery that sold my work at a discount on the opening night of a show!

I had an interesting conversation once, with the owner of one of my galleries. She told me that for some collectors, “the thrill of the chase” fuels their art-buying. Their acquisition is more “valuable” to them if they feel they have gotten a discounted “bargain,” even if they are millionaires and their “competition” is a poor garret-dwelling artist. Outside the gallery/artist relationship, I’ve willingly given discounts for multiple purchases, and I happily give discounts to people who collect my work.


There are 3 comments for The thrill of the chase by Brigitte Nowak

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

Good sound policy.

I’ve had the same experience with *art sharks* asking for deep discounts. They are better left to swim over to other artists.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 21, 2011

I’m interested in know how many works sold were discounted? Then ask yourself, is the gallery saying it was discounted or giving you less?

Do they show you a sales receipt?.

From: Liz Reday — Feb 23, 2011

Beware of lawyers driving upscale cars cruising art fairs in the last hours of booth shows offering to buy work at half price. I’ve known guys who do this regularly. Just double your price when you see them coming and let them bargain you down.

Discount on a Monet?
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA

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“Woman in red”
oil painting by Rick Rotante

Where did this phenomenon of discounting art come from? I will need to try this method when next I go shopping to the grocery store or the clothing store. I might even try this with the Internal Revenue on my taxes this year. “Would you accept less? I seem to be a little short this year.” Is this uniquely an art thing? Do we feel we are getting a bargain if the sale price is lowered? Or is art so ephemeral that its pricing is considered up for grabs? I once considered, as a joke, marking all my work as “marked down from $1,500.00 to $500.00 with a red slash through the $1,500.00 or “buy one, get one free!!” Strange how all this stops when the artist reaches a certain level of fame or notoriety. Can you imagine asking for a discount on a Monet, or Picasso?


There are 6 comments for Discount on a Monet? by Rick Rotante

From: Sam — Feb 17, 2011

Key words “when the artist reaches a certain level of fame or notoriety”. Before that everything goes!

From: Judy Lalingo — Feb 17, 2011

I dunno… art is, in the strictest sense, a retail commodity. So I guess potential buyers feel that like shoes or furniture, (or the framed repros in places like Walmart) art is a retail item that will go on sale.

On the other hand, I have heard that some things sell better when they are marked UP, rather than down.

And from a business graduate, I’ve heard that art is the one business where you can throw out everything you learn about marketing & selling. It’s a spontaneous, emotional sell. Difficult to gauge & graph & project profits.

Art is a very strange business.

From: David — Feb 18, 2011

I’d bet you a dollar that Picasso asked for, and received, discounts when he bought things!

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

Reminds me of starting out trying to hawk my paintings to a gallery.

The remark I remember from the Gallery owner was “People don’t want cheap paintings.” I was thinking price, he was thinking Art. My lesson was learned.

From: Tatjana M-P — Feb 18, 2011

I don’t think that we should blame the buyers for asking. I also doubt that we should blame galleries for the use of discounts because that is a valid sales method, and hopefully it is used smartly and appropriately for the art market (10% off towards multiple sales has been mentioned many times as reasonable). As an artist I don’t like art discounts because I don’t like to think of art as a “product”, but on the commercial market, that’s exactly what it is. Let’s compare sales of art with other luxury products – cars, houses, diamonds – they all make use of discounts. Buyers are not concerned about wages of people who provide those things, so why would they be concerned about the artist’s wage? Collectors are buyers, not artist’s employers. Most people shop around to get the best deal on anything, and that includes even the highest end art collectors. Having said all that, I wish I never see an art discount again!

From: Tony Max — Feb 18, 2011

Tatjana, you got to the crux by writing, “Most people shop around to get the best deal on anything, and that includes even the highest end art collectors.”

This is especially true now. No one has taken into account the fact that there hasn’t been a worse recession since 1929 – 82 years ago – and that the art sector is one of the worst-hit sectors.

When the art economy was strong, I raised my prices. Now that the art economy is very weak, I lowered my prices.

I’m following the most basic law of economics: the law of supply and demand. This is just common sense.

The bias against discounting is only valid if you have buyers and dealers clamoring for your work. Few of us these days are so lucky.

The bias against discounting is silly. I recently saw an ad for a luxury car on T.V. It offered a $10,000 rebate. Would you think that brand new car is a clunker just because it’s heavily discounted? Of course not.

The same goes for other expensive items where aesthetics are valued, as Tatjana pointed out.

Housing has been discounted by tens of thousands of dollars – in many cases hundreds of thousands of dollars – and some mansions by millions of dollars – because the recession caused the demand plummets, and often there’s an oversupply, which also causes picky buyers to push prices down. No one believes that such discounts make the houses undesirable because people understand that housing prices fluctuate with the economy, and no one assumes that the prices won’t will rise again when the economy improves.

The prices of clothing and jewelry go up and down according to supply and demand. The prices of energy and minerals fluctuates as well with supply and demand. The prices of airline flights, vacations and hotels – also highly competitive sectors – are heavily discounted now.

Even the price of money fluctuates – and it does so every minute.

Art is a commodity just like all other commodities and therefore the rule of supply and demand affects art just like any other commodity.

I don’t like to discount my art any more than any other artist but I consider it a necessity now.

If and when the art recession ends and sales boom for me again as they did up until five years ago, I’ll start raising my prices again accordingly.

Dangerous sales
by Don Sinish, Essex, MD, USA

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“Parallel Lives”
coloured pencil drawing
by Don Sinish

I have struggled with the issue of multiple prices for 40 years. It is a complex and emotion laden issue. We all want to sell our art. Everyone wants to feel like they got a good deal in buying, as much as each of us wants to feel that we received a fair price in selling. My current resolve to this issue is that I do not consign any work ever. If a dealer wants work, they pay outright and the selling price is their business.

For me, wholesale prices are earned by being a wholesale customer. I recognize volume customers. To me a dealer wanting to buy one piece is a retail customer, the same as any individual. A couple wanting 5 pieces for their new home is a wholesale customer. They get a deal that we negotiate, usually buy so many, get one free. Thus the integrity of my pricing structure is preserved, and everyone gets what they want. I would love to hear discourse on the vagaries of consigning art.

(RG note) Thanks, Don. Selling outright to dealers leaves your ultimate prices in the hands of the scallywags and scissorbills. Smart artists control the final price of their work and help their dealers, and themselves, stick by them.


There is 1 comment for Dangerous sales by Don Sinish

From: Joseph Jahn — Feb 18, 2011

The first gallery I went with got my paintings (and still does) on consignment with a fixed price and percentage. The second gallery was in a large city and contracted me to deliver a certain number of paintings per year. These were paid for on delivery as per the contract. If you trust your gallery consignment is fine and has worked well for me. A Gallery buying the worked OK, but there is need to set the sales price in writing or there can arise all manner of problems. Jeese I seem to be commenting a lot … better get back to painting…..

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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Joseph Jahn of Nibe, Denmark, who wrote, “My discount for more than one painting is 10%, about the same as yours; otherwise you end up being a horse trader not a painter.”

And also Thomas Tobin who wrote, “Sorry, Robert, but it’s an odd concern for an artist as one usually understands an artist-gallery relationship and all that goes into creating individual pieces. There is more than the money difference that doesn’t add up.”

And also Jocelyn Ball who wrote, “I realize we are not talking about an artist represented by a commercial gallery, more frame and print places that just let artists hang work or prints and hope they sell. Dozens of galleries representing an artist, just makes no sense at all, it seems very odd.”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Discounting your art

 

 

From: Meltemi — Feb 15, 2011

Again today, via my website, I was asked by an unknown potential buyer to give a better price on an artwork. I responded, I can raise the price if you like. That clearly wasn’t what the person wanted to hear.

I continued. But if you purchase two, three or four of my artworks in one purchase, then yes, I will give you a discount. If you are an existing client with who has previously purchased artworks from me, then yes I will give you a discount. Yes I will give you a discount if you collect the artwork directly from my studio and pay cash. I continued “I work as a full time artist i.e. its not done as a hobby. You, by asking me, for a discount on my work its just like your employer asking you to take a pay-cut for what you do, lets say a 20% cut in your monthly pay cheque. So how would you feel about taking that discount on your income on your labour”?

Why the discount on a multiple purchase? Parcel freight of artworks is based not on their weight but its ‘ cube’. Cube is the multiplication of the external measurements of the final package [length x height x width]. The cost of a typical packed artwork equates to a 15kg parcel and up to four identical sized artworks can be fitted into almost the same sized package.

About once a year I open a clearance online e-commerce page to my website for the clearance from the studio of a few remaining unloved [and unframed]or otherwise discontinued artwork themes. Their typical sales price is reduced by about 50%. My collectors are informed by email beforehand and are given four weeks to make their purchases, then It appears on my website without further notice again its a limited offer for four weeks only.

From: Phil Dynan — Feb 15, 2011

I’m a co-director at the Red Bluff Art Gallery in Northern California. I’m also a represented artist. The Gallery policy is that when work is brought in the artist and gallery sign an agreement that includes the possibility of a discount. The field is left blank, but generally, 10% is recommended and anything over the agreed amount requires an offer in writing from the buyer and a counter-signature by the artist to “OK” the deal. This arrangement is working well for us. (However, some customers – and some artists have tried to by-pass the gallery. We’ve had to throw out two artists this year for dishonest transactions.) Times are tough…but having an agreement in writing seems to work best for us.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Feb 15, 2011

Whenever anything with a subjective value is discounted, the potential buyer questions that value.

From: Thierry Talon — Feb 15, 2011

Another solution: sell your work on the internet.

A good topic for a next letter?

From: Felicity Mamoudian — Feb 15, 2011

Discount my prices any more and the next step is taping bank notes to the back of them to get them to move. Sorry to whine. There are problems at every level of business.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 16, 2011

If discounting becomes the norm, there will a belief in the buyer’s mind that the price is inflated. Art is one of those commodities that can be any price depending on what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Look to the plastic Shark in the tank. Sold for over fourteen million dollars. Go figure. I prefer not to call it discounting, this brings art down to the level of shoes or apples. I prefer a “negotiable adjustment” in price agreed upon between the buyer and seller and gallery if there is one involved. I don’t feel a gallery has the right to adjust an artist’s prices without a written agreement. When I do faire’s, I will adjust a price that is resonably to both. They are getting a deal and I don’t feel I gave it away.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 16, 2011

Marsha – Work that is good will find a buyer. If you take it back from a gallery unsold, store it for another day, time and place. I’ve sold work that was ten years old but never seen but once. As a full time artist you have to remember you will have “early work”, “mid career work” and “mature work” and these will shift as you age. I’m in the process of mounting a show of my pastels which were painted some four, five or even ten years ago but never shown. If at the end of your life you remain with a studio full of work, well, then it’s someone else to worry about. Integrity is most important as an artist. Giving it away, once you’ve acheived some success, is for hobbyists.

From: Gavin Logan — Feb 16, 2011

These works on Mr Max’s site are advertised as “Giclees on canvas.” No wonder they are discounted. What are they? I suspect they may be merely photoshopped photos, cheap to produce and easy to breed.

From: Ray Chan — Feb 16, 2011

These images are for people who merely need images on their walls. Who did them and how they are made is not important to the buyers of this sort of work. The merchandising aspect reflects this.

From: Dirk — Feb 17, 2011

Tony, if you have “dozens of galleries” you must produce dozens of paintings per month, if not more. That would make you a formulaic painter.

And if that is true, you deserve all the discounting you get.

From: Tony Max — Feb 17, 2011

More expensive painting shoppers these days are finicky, waffling and like to haggle. Art dealers struggling to make ends meet are tempted to give in to the demands for discounts so they can pay their rent, or the customers might walk away.

That formidable downward pressure on market prices coming from both art buyers and art dealers makes it difficult for most artists to raise their painting prices by a set percentage annually, but raising the prices is what they need to do establish investment value in their originals.

From: Jamie Lavin — Feb 17, 2011

Robert, I think you’ve lost your mind!

You can’t be so out of touch- when on earth did you have this conversation of having the dealer return a painting someone had an interest in?

It sounds more like 1986 rather than now. Any dealer that is still open for business, is lucky to have any interest in anything! Gone are the days of a dealer buying the artist a Jag, if you get my ardent drift! The dealers have closed for good in the western, central & the eastern part of Kansas (east of the state line) & Missouri doesn’t look much better. Come on, how do dealers allow themselves these “games” on your behalf. I don’t really know what sounds more unethical in your related story, you guys or the ornery customer who gets beat out of a painting, has to concede to buy another, and therefore, is taught a”lesson” by you & the dealer, and everything comes out rosy.

The reality is that the artist DOES NEED to work had-in-glove with the dealer, I think you made that clear. They might have to go to 25% – which is fair, especially if the artist maintains his retail anywhere he shows or hosts his own show. Professional artists need to always have a retail & a wholesale price- always, and you’ve got to be able to work with people. In my experience, working with all but thugs, will increase sales numbers, even if they’re not exactly close to what everyone would like. We are vulnerable at this time to the “art raptors”- it is a fact, however we want it not to be.

Governor Brownback just canned everyone at the Kansas Arts Commission- told them they would receive $200K & that’s it- go fund yourselves as a separate organization, not a Kansas Government entity, he told them.

This past weekend we hosted The Mid-Winter Art Fair in the Ward Parkway Shopping Center, the first enclosed “Mall” in the United States for the 48th straight year. We really drew in the buyers by doing a significant TV spread of 15 second ads & radio with the NPR affiliate. I know you ‘re not fond of fairs, but hey, the dealers are (mostly) all gone around here! We all found that even in the highest price points ($500 & up to 1K, we had alot more luck closing sales going with a reduced (verbal only) price. It was the first year we’ve been successful there in a long time, and it was not a garage sale crowd either.

The artist who wrote to you probably is not in the price point your work is- the last time I looked, your 8 by 10’s were very pricey- $600 I think, maybe $800? If he or she was in your price league, I can almost assure you this would not be a question posed by someone with a large amount of experience & demand for their work was as high.

I realize you answer alot of questions brought to you, and that you are committed to “coaching them up” and that you offer your perspective on things. I am certainly not out to offend, you have been and continue to be an inspiration to all of us. I consider you a good friend. I see things as they are, and wonder what can be done, to help make things turn out like they ought to- didn’t Robert Kennedy say something to this effect once? I direct two artspaces, help with a bank lobby, and try my hardest to make opportunity from all of them. I was able to get $1,400 for 10 of us doing images for the Kansas Lottery- you can see them at www.Kansaslottery.com – they put 4 images on the scratcher tickets & the actual framed paintings are “second-chance” drawing prizes. We’re hosting events until August to celebrate our Sequicentennial & sell other images of Kansas History. I need to do more to sell the other originals that each artist has contributed to the exhibition.

I “blinked” & bought a small frame shop here in Kansas City. My oldest is in her 3rd year of college & young one next year goes, so it’s “hammer time” around here. The paintings are doing fine, like a well-oiled, part-time job; selling about as many as before. The shop is actually doing OK. Lots of pitfalls, even for someone as experienced as me- I’ve been framing for 35 years for other shops. The first 6 months was alot like drowning in a waterfall- I couldn’t get up to the “surface” to breathe. Made alot of progress, not a lot of money. Be assured Bob, it’s tough out here…The “rules” are being re-invented every day!

Gardner, Kansas…Kansas City, Missouri USA

From: Tony Max — Feb 17, 2011

I agree with Jamie about artists and art dealers’ diminished clout.

Although records are being set at the top of the art market, even some top-end art has suffered price declines during this Great Recession.

It’s tough for artists nowadays to steer the behaviour of dealers and retail customers to respect artists’ prices. These are the ’10s – not the heady ’80s – when art buyers were more liberal.

Also, I don’t think it’s easy for art buyers in most cases to ascertain which galleries are fudging prices of paintings – and to ascertain what artists’ standard prices are – because there are so many variables involved in pricing art.

Paintings vary by size and therefore bigger paintings are priced higher. Do art buyers sit with a calculator by their computer looking at Web sites doing ratios to figure out what the price per square inch or foot is for an artist’s paintings exhibited at different galleries? Some might do so – but only for the most expensive art.

Even then, art buyers have to be like accountants to try to compare prices of an artist’s art among galleries.

For example, some paintings are exhibited framed and others are unframed, so prices therefore vary.

Many art galleries – and artist and gallery advertising such as Web sites, tear sheets and magazine ads – don’t display prices of paintings – or only show the prices of some paintings – making price comparisons difficult.

Determining artists’ standard prices, and whether or not galleries are charging commissions that are too low or high, is also difficult because galleries have different commissions, which may or may not be reflected in the retail prices of the paintings consigned by artists to the galleries.

Also, some dealers discount paintings if they feel the paintings have been on the gallery walls too long.

In addition, some art buyers still don’t even use the Internet, so those people can’t even try to benefit from the Internet’s abundance of information.

And many art buyers don’t know which galleries represent a particular artist, making price comparisons impractical.

Some price lists of artists’ currently available paintings – both online and on paper – are not kept up-to-date.

From: Elihu Edelson — Feb 17, 2011

It is funny, but really bad art.

From: Rosemary Wood Dodd — Feb 17, 2011

You better be able to laugh at yourself if you purchase one of these

extravagant paintings!

From: Meltemi — Feb 18, 2011

Tont Max writes…Paintings vary by size and therefore bigger paintings are priced higher. Do art buyers sit with a calculator by their computer looking at Web sites doing ratios to figure out what the price per square inch or foot is for an artist’s paintings exhibited at different galleries? Some might do so – but only for the most expensive art.

A simple spread sheet can be constructed…feed in the dimensions…the cost of the canvas…a notional price per square centimetre…add the framing costs…then the shipping costs to the home market [in my case the UK]…the home market…the European market…and the north American [Canada/USA]…It is so simple I made one. All artworks cost the same to paint regardless of size…Think about it?

From: LD — Feb 18, 2011

Art is not so much a “retail” store as it is a “market”…meaning there is more “dealing” in art than just selling art. All artists must determine what deal works for them in their market opportunities…it’s not the same for all.

From: Kirsten Barton — Feb 18, 2011

re: discounting

What if, instead of discounting, artists were to add in value? For example: someone wants to buy a painting for 300 dollars. They ask for a discount. Instead, the artist says, “no, I cannot discount this….I have to maintain consistency in my prices. But, I would love to give you a set of these cards or a print of this other piece.” That way, the client has a sense of being “special” or having gotten something for nothing, while the artist can give away items that they may have in inventory that are not selling as well. This might even be a good way to clear out some of those older “vintage” works.

I don’t know that this would work for the high-end market, but at the level where I rattle around, it works pretty well.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Feb 18, 2011

Chacun a son gout. Perhaps his work requires a new category; somewhere between cartoon and illustration. His circus mirror effects don’t seem to have a purpose as did Guernica or some of Goya’s etchings. Sometimes art prepares us to see things. Hmm…rather; uh oh!

From: marilyn smith — Feb 18, 2011

I think it is social commentary.

From: marilyn smith — Feb 18, 2011

It is social commentary.

From: Kimberly Kent — Feb 18, 2011

As a broker who deals directly with artists, I do sometimes buy from galleries or other dealers. “Discounts” should come out of the dealer’s commission, or in my case shared between dealers. The only other discounts I offered when I had a gallery was for removing the frame for clients who wanted to frame the art themselves. I feel strongly that the artist should always net 50% of the sale price.

From: Tony Max — Feb 18, 2011

“Maltemi wrote: “Tony Max writes…Paintings vary by size and therefore bigger paintings are priced higher. Do art buyers sit with a calculator by their computer looking at Web sites doing ratios to figure out what the price per square inch or foot is for an artist’s paintings exhibited at different galleries? Some might do so – but only for the most expensive art. A simple spread sheet can be constructed…feed in the dimensions…the cost of the canvas…a notional price per square centimetre…add the framing costs…then the shipping costs to the home market [in my case the UK]…the home market…the European market…and the north American [Canada/USA]…It is so simple I made one. All artworks cost the same to paint regardless of size…”

Maltemi, you’ve misunderstood what I wrote.

I didn’t write about how artists can determine their unit pricing; I wrote that it’s difficult – if not impossible – in most cases, for ART GALLERY CUSTOMERS to figure out what artists’ standard unit prices are for their paintings.

I wrote that in response to Robert, who penned this (near the top of this page), “Since the advent of the Internet, savvy customers soon find an artist’s standard prices and scout the best prices across an artist’s stable of dealers. Further, they quickly note dealers who offer work with the prices fudged up. This false pricing or profiteering is defended by some dealers to give them wiggle room for further discounting. It may seem like smart marketing, but the practice tends to make it more difficult for the fudging dealers to do business.”

From: Sheila Minifie — Feb 18, 2011

I agree Marilyn, it’s social commentary.

From: Kathy Mayerson — Feb 18, 2011

Condo would be an amazing person to meet for cocktails.

From: Gene Martin — Feb 19, 2011

Perceived value folks. If you do not perceive it as valuable then no one else will either.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 19, 2011

From what I’ve been reading, the problem is with the artists themselves. If you believe your work is discountable, then for sure it is. If your willing to take less than you are the problem not the galleries or the buyers. You deserve less if you value you work so little. If you don’t value your effort and think you are worth the money, then I guess you should stop talking about it and take what you get.

From: Donna C. Veeder — Feb 21, 2011

I have seen some of these paintings in art magazines. Or someplace. They give me the creeps as does that other fellow who smears the figure all over. Now his name wont come. He was English, I think. I also get the creeps from old Roman, Egyptian or Greek faces with the noses broken off. Do I need perfection? Maybe.

From: Katharine Gordon — Feb 24, 2011

I do not know what to say. I have looked once and won’t forget, no matter what I actually think.

From: Doris Olsen — Mar 23, 2011

Thanks for your info on how to sell art. I find it hard to sell art much over $200.00 in this depressed market …jobs are hard to come by, some are out of work and it is hard in a small town. I’ve made giclees and digital prints for years in addition to selling original art but have never advanced my prices accordingly and I did very well in good times. Now, sales are so slow & I wonder what to do. Doris Olsen

 

 

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