Current art-pricing trends

Dear Artist, Over the last while, another raft of emails has come in from artists wondering about pricing. Some new trends in pricing also require that I update. I’m dividing my comments between artists who sell through galleries and the ever-increasing Internet-empowered artists known as “self-sellers.” Two different price lists are required. In the artist-gallery situation you need to build in your dealer’s commission. This can range between 25% and 50%. No matter what the commission charged by the dealer, your final selling price should be the same in all locations. The well-galleried artist needs controlled pricing and, in most cases, annual increases. We need to also give our dealers a small amount of wiggle room. I generally allow 10% off when a gallery sells more than one to a single collector. While many opinions abound, paintings should be priced by size. If you paint a range of sizes, your smallest need to be underpriced according to their size, and your largest need to be overpriced according to their size. Your larger masterpieces test the upper limits of your prices. As in the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” situation, the middle sizes should be priced “just right.” Trouble is, “just right” is a sticky wicket–often a combination of rarity/availability, perceived quality and market conditions. Multiple dealer advice is most valuable. Average it out. Dealer goodwill and friendship are keys to thrival. For artists who choose the direct-to-collector route, prices can be lower, but the same size-related price advancement ought to apply. The dealerless or online pseudo-dealer systems are actually a paradigm shift that’s causing a few headaches among traditional dealers. With more artists than ever lunging toward a limited crowd of art buyers, brick-and-mortar dealers have more than ever to be the gatekeepers of quality and protectors of investment. When galleries lose sight of these ideals, they lose customers to the ubiquitous Internet. The same thing is happening in the stock-brokerage business. In the new dispensation, many “self-sellers” are selling their art with integrity and panache. You’ll also be glad to know that in the current melee, dead artists continue to do well. Best regards, Robert PS: “I was very embarrassed when my canvases began to fetch high prices. I saw myself condemned to a future of nothing but masterpieces.” (Henri Matisse) Esoterica: The nice thing about working with dealers is that the artist can be full-time in the miracle of creativity. By being one degree separated from the marketplace, this artist is freer to ask the life-sustaining question, “What shall I do today?” On the other hand, the nice thing about self-selling is that you get to keep more of the winnings. Trouble is, self-promoted winnings tend to stay rather less than if you have someone regularly going to bat for you. To really thrive in our game, you need good art and someone who thinks it’s good art, besides you. A word of caution: Self-sellers, if and when they tire of the rigmarole, often have trouble getting into the better galleries. Some dealers have an intrinsic distaste for other entrepreneurs.   The other way around? by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery), Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Elliot Louis Gallery”
Vancouver, BC, Canada

A note regarding the premise that, “your smallest (paintings) need to be underpriced according to their size, and your largest need to be overpriced according to their size.” Perhaps it is the other way around. For commercial purposes, I find it better to raise the price per square inch on the smaller work and lower the price per inch on the larger work. Otherwise one tends to sell the small work way too inexpensively and price the larger work out of reach. Painting one’s large “masterpieces” is a pricing conundrum unto itself and to a degree unrelated. (RG note) Thanks, Ted. Most of the criticism coming my way on this issue was based on the “per square inch” concept. I don’t believe in it. It’s been my experience that large expensive paintings help to legitimize an artist’s commitment and help with the sales of smaller works for people with lesser budgets who nevertheless want a piece. The concept of “price points” — fairly evenly-spaced prices based on size — generally takes precedence over the accountant mentality per-square-inch idea. There is 1 comment for The other way around? by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery)
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 15, 2013

Ted, I agree with your point. And Robert, the per-square-inch idea is a way to come up with the size-based pricing. Once I know what a 16×20 or 30×40 is priced at per square inch, I then forget that system and know the “fairly evenly-spaced prices based on size”… especially since 99% of the time my work is standard sizes. The only variable sometimes is museum glass and a very expensive frame. Otherwise, the framing is consistent also.

  Successful self-selling by Carol Marine, Austin, TX, USA  

“One misplaced grape
oil painting
by Carol Marine

Being one of the “self-sellers” you mentioned, but having shown in galleries, too, I wanted to share my experience. I was lucky enough to get into several good galleries years ago, but even then I found I spent a lot of time (and money) framing my work, shipping it off, visiting the galleries to make sure my work was on the walls, only to make perhaps $10,000 a year and have half my paintings eventually returned to me. Now I sell small paintings online, daily, and make easily four times what I made in the galleries. Each painting sells in auction, so the market sets the price. Some (6×6 inch paintings) go for the minimum of $100, and some are bid up to (so far) $600, depending on how much people like the painting. As great as it was to attend my own gallery shows and have the prestige that went along with it, I simply wasn’t able to support myself that way. (RG note) Thanks, Carol. You are describing a major trend. Brick and mortar dealers are concerned about the trend because customers are able to satisfy themselves online for a hundred bucks, drawing potential customers out of the local galleries. The online competition of all the other painters auctioning work for low prices keeps everyone’s prices low and not even truly excellent artists do particularly well. Self-respecting artists like to get respectable prices for their art. One hundred bucks is not it. There are 4 comments for Successful self-selling by Carol Marine
From: Mike Barr — Mar 14, 2013

There are a comparative handful of artist that can do well at the remaining galleries now. Gallery shows are quickly becoming the domain of the well-to-do who have shows, just so they can have a show. Making money is not all the important to this group — it is all about image. I have watched the sales at one particular gallery over the last couple of years and perhaps one artist has made good sales. The rest are keeping the gallery afloat, but only just. I recently had a solo comprising of 37 paintings painted over a 10 month period. I will end up making just over $5000 from a total of just over $12,000 of sales. The highest single sale was $1480. I do much, much better at community art shows and college shows. Just two recent such shows brought in more than a whole solo exhibition at a very good gallery and with better prices sales. Artists are selling where they can or just don’t sell at all. I suspect that online sales are largely anectodal and that those who do well here are those that sell under $500.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 15, 2013

Carol, I totally understand… and congratulations on your success. This underscores the mentality of using a gallery. I am in a good gallery, and hope they do well. I also sell myself and do not underdut the gallery pricing. Mike’s comments are totally on spot! I do believe most galleries are not keeping up with the times.

From: Susan Avishai — Mar 15, 2013

Robert, I think your comment was a bit harsh. $100 (and often much more) is not at all a bad price for a 6″x6″ painting (by this formula she’d get well over $7K for a 60″x40″), especially if you can get to a point where you can count on selling just about every one you paint and you are producing one a day. The brick-and-mortar model is clearly breaking down for all sorts of reasons besides online competition, but maybe it should. Many galleries were snooty, exclusive, and not at all welcoming to people who were beginning to be interested in buying art. Carol is an example of someone who has steadily built a following over years for high quality painting, a professional blog, and excellent workshops. If anything I think she has raised the bar for this type of approach.

From: Doug Mays — Mar 15, 2013

Carol, Your work and your marketing strategy is a model for all of us. Congratulations.

  One pricing structure for both by Kimberly Santini, Lake Orion, MI, USA  

“Sweet spot II”
original painting
by Kimberly Santini

I have to respectfully disagree with your recommendation that artists who self-sell should set their prices lower. Artists who are selling directly to collectors are investing significant chunks of their time in marketing and communication efforts, time that they deserve to be reimbursed for. In the traditional gallery-artist model, artists paid galleries to do this work via the gallery’s commission, and thusly had more time for creation. When self-selling artists price themselves lower because a gallery isn’t involved, they are essentially doing all that work that the gallery would have done for free — and often doing this work for free at the expense of time spent at the easel, which is a double-whammy in the wallet. Furthermore, having multiple pricing strategies (self-selling vs. gallery representation) creates a challenge when self-selling artists are approached by galleries wanting to represent them. Doesn’t it make prudent sense to have one pricing structure that works for both scenarios, allowing self-selling artists to partner with galleries and vice-versa? (RG note) Thanks, Kimberly. Fact is, most self-selling artists do price their work lower, because the online competition does the same. There are 3 comments for One pricing structure for both by Kimberly Santini
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 15, 2013

Okay, it seems I am commenting on each one. Kimberly, you are right! And, Robert, most self-respecting and ethical artists do not price their work lower!

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 15, 2013

Agreed. The premise is a self-selling artist has no expenses, which is not the case at all. Galleries can undercut themselves by pricing work much higher than the artist who sells directly. If the price structure was equitable a patron could more easily evaluate artists’ work, comparing A to A quality and price, instead of A to B. Obviously, if an artist is successfully selling through a gallery they will support the old business model. Those who are selling outside gallery walls are happy where they are as well.

From: Anonymous — Mar 17, 2013

Are there ways galleries can change for the times?

  The problem with frames by Tish Lowe, Florence, Italy  

“Lady in Lace”
oil painting
by Tish Lowe

Is it better to sell and/or show artwork framed or unframed (if not dictated by one’s gallery)? If framed, how should cost of frame affect pricing, i.e. should one build in more than the cost of the framing to cover time spent in selection, etc.? I know that many galleries prefer to sell unframed work, then sell the frame themselves. However, for important shows not sponsored by galleries (e.g., in an art museum or art center, or juried competitions), framed work looks much classier and completes the painting. If the buyer doesn’t want the frame, however, the artist will have to reduce the price of the work accordingly and may get stuck with a custom frame that is not easily used on another painting. (RG note) Thanks, Tish. With commercial brick and mortar galleries, the best system by far is for the gallery to do the framing. Galleries are in a better position to select popular frame styles, the frames themselves sustain less damage because they are not moved around so much, and by offering selection, the dealer is able to offer a more satisfactory environment for the collector. Museums, competitions, etc, are another kettle of herring. For these shows, except in very rare circumstances, the artist has to frame the work and take the bumps. I have a spare room filled to the ceiling with slightly damaged frames. On the matter of adding the cost of frames, if a non-framing dealer wants a painting of mine, I have it framed, triple the cost and ask the dealer to add that amount to the standard, published, unframed price. This makes the non-framing dealer just a little bit more expensive than a dealer who frames. There are 2 comments for The problem with frames by Tish Lowe
From: Michael McDevitt — Mar 15, 2013

Your gorgeous portrait immediately called Velasquez and Sargent to mind. “Framed” indeed promotes such work to the head of the class. In some cases a “gallery wrap” is not only adequate but more suited. It is a case by case thing for my work.

From: Tatjana — Mar 15, 2013

Beautiful portrait!

  Building value over the long term by Bill Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Art), Winnipeg, MB, Canada  

“Mayberry Fine Art”
Winnipeg/Toronto, Canada

I found today’s letter interesting, in particular the part about “self-sellers” versus “gallery/dealer.” The fascinating thing in the world of art production (versus other consumer products) is art never goes away. It outlives us all, even the artist. If you go to the landfill right now you’ll not find a single painting (good or bad). At the end of life’s journey, everyone has the task of sorting out their stuff, accumulated over the years. Some will likely have artwork from those impulse buys spent while on holiday, or from those irresistible “great buys.” online or at the local mall art show. Some buy their art at fundraising dinners — often the unsold, unwanted stuff that gets donated for a tax receipt. With no promoted market base, self-sold art has little chance in finding a secondary market and is most often the art which becomes the storage problem for the kids. Networks of galleries, Art Consultants, museum exhibitions and endless talking about the artist by dealers slowly build that possible “life ever after” market which at least has a chance of sustaining value — and if it has value, the kids will be more likely to want it. Self-sold art in the secondary market most often ends at the studio door. After forty years in the art business, I have seen the examples of this, over and over again. I am often approached by the estates of deceased “self-sold” artists who are left with hundreds of paintings still in the artist’s basement, and faced with the task of figuring out what to do with it all… after all, now that the artist is passed, isn’t the value of their work supposed to go up? Descendants quickly realize it is too late to start building a market that only existed when the artist was in fact the market. It’s a fact that not all art is created equal and the natural process where talent and quality rise to the top will continue to happen over time. Art which has gone through the editing process and through a wide base of galleries, dealers and collectors generally has a better chance of sustaining value over the long term. There is 1 comment for Building value over the long term by Bill Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Art)
From: Anonymous — Mar 15, 2013

Regardless of the valid opinions on galleries verses direct selling this particular viewpoint holds true. If for no other reason it might be advisable for self-sellers to have at least some paintings sold through galleries to establish market value.

  Price not based on size by Margie Ogilvy, Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa  

pastel painting
by Margie Ogilvy

I have to take exception to your pricing philosophy of small paintings are cheaper than large ones! Try painting a 5cm x 6cm miniature in oil with a brush containing one or two bristles on it! It takes hours to perfect. Painting large canvasses is a doodle compared to doing something so small and I can assure you the price is definitely not comparative to size.       There is 1 comment for Price not based on size by Margie Ogilvy
From: Anonymous — Mar 15, 2013

What Bob was refering to were small paintings in the opus of an artist that makes similar works in different sizes. Of course that an intricate miniature would cost more than a loose sketch in large size. That would be comparing apples and oranges…or grapes and watermelons!

  Displaying prices online? by John Berry, Wellsville, UT, USA  

“Dry Bone Canyon”
oil painting
by John Berry

While on the topic of pricing, I have a quick question for you. What are your thoughts on displaying or not displaying prices on the artist’s own website? I have several galleries, and also sell paintings to my own list of collectors, and have been told by a current gallery owner to not display my prices on my site. If you have a moment, your thoughts, please? (RG note) Thanks, John. Some dealers feel they need prices to be opaque so they can have more wiggle room. On the other hand, your dealer’s request may be because your self-selling prices are lower than what your dealer asks. If this is the case, you need to make your self-sale prices exactly the same as your dealer prices. See gallery owner Sharon Wolff’s letter below. When I said in my letter that self-selling prices can be lower than gallery sale prices, I meant where self-selling artists have no gallery representation. And that is indeed what is happening. There are 4 comments for Displaying prices online? by John Berry
From: Michael McDevitt — Mar 15, 2013

Good job shooting this piece! The texture comes through just great. Very fun to see.

From: John Berry — Mar 15, 2013

Thank you Robert for your comments. In my case, my prices are exactly what the gallery sells my pieces for, that is why I was a little confused as to why I was told not to list my prices. I would never, repeat never, under-price my work to make a sale, that is career suicide. What I am fighting is one of my galleries “discounting” my pieces, in essence undermining me. I feel it is fool-hardy for any “self-seller” to sell their art for cheap, whether they have gallery representation or not, and I agree with you, $100 is WAY too cheap.

From: John Berry — Mar 15, 2013

Thanks Michael for your kind words. Though this image is way “too hot” reproduced here.

From: Anonymous — Mar 15, 2013

It sounds to me that the gallery in question is probably selling for more than you think, and taking the difference…happened to me…

  Only one price list by Sharon Wolff, Colorado Springs, CO, USA  

“Hunter-Wolff Gallery”
Colorado Springs, CO, USA

I am one of your fans and find your comments interesting if not right on 90% of the time. I do take issue with this article and that you urge artists to create two different price lists. Termination from my gallery is automatic when an artist is selling below gallery retail price, regardless if it is on their website or at any other location. I also take issue with your comment, “The well-galleried artist needs controlled pricing and in most cases annual increases.” Many of my gallery artists will read this to mean they need to automatically plan annual increases and up their prices every year. Most are not qualified for annual increases and as a gallery owner, I believe I am qualified to recommend when an artist needs to increase their product based on current market trends. In today’s market in Colorado, an increase is a “death sentence.” I do agree, however, when an artist increases prices at one location, all locations must be the same, including their own website. (RG note) Thanks, Sharon. Sorry, a misunderstanding. For artists who are both represented and self-selling, prices, as mentioned above, must be identical. What I’m saying is that the work of the independent self-seller is often, for various reasons, priced lower. The reason price increases are a death sentence in some markets is that the low prices of self-sellers are now understood by a lot of the general public as the competition. There are 2 comments for Only one price list by Sharon Wolff
From: John Berry — Mar 15, 2013

So Sharon, then the same should hold true for a gallery that discounts an artists work, without prior consent, correct? The artist should terminate the gallery immediately. Sounds good to me.

From: Anonymous — Mar 15, 2013

Like it or not, low-priced self-selling artists are a valid competition. Galleries insist that they work hard, but everyone knows that working hard doesn’t always mean working smart. They need a new strategy in the changed market. Freezing prices doesn’t make sense as a long term strategy. That approach is a slow and painful death sentence for all involved. The first time any of my galleries wants to set my prices, I’ll be out of there. Maybe there are still some financially incompetent artists around who would take that kind of bullying, but none of the ones I know.

  Building your name by Valerie Kent, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada  

“Autumn Flames”
acrylic painting
by Valerie Kent

Art today needs to be promoted widely, whether you do it or your gallery does. Without a name, even the auction houses will only put a value of $80 on it. You need to build a name by a combination of promotion, self-advocacy, and maybe lots of money, good printed material, website, and networking to start with. One rule of thumb is go into some galleries that carry your type of work, look around at the prices, pick something in their middle range based on size and quality, cross your fingers and eyes that it will work for you. If you are too high you may be overlooked, if you are too low you may be thought to be insignificant. So many local galleries have closed or down-sized. Lots of artists no longer have gallery representation. The individual websites are not visited greatly unless promoted. Group artist websites may be helpful. There is no easy answer. There is 1 comment for Building your name by Valerie Kent
From: Jackie Knott — Mar 15, 2013

Is there a medium here? What would be wrong with serving both markets, offer specific paintings online, and have a few at galleries? I have noted some artists only have a very few at their galleries. Artists, anyone doing that? Galleries, what objection would you have to that if the price were comparable?


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Current art-pricing trends

From: wes giesbrecht — Mar 11, 2013

I don’t quite get this. For me, there’s no question that the smaller ones take almost as long as the medium sized paintings and the larger than medium ones don’t take that much longer. So I’m inclined to price the small ones higher per sq. in. and vice versa.

From: Dexter Paul — Mar 11, 2013

Wes, it’s got nothing to do with how long it takes. You’re not in a union.

From: ReneW — Mar 12, 2013

Selling by the square inch has worked for me. Regardless of size I start at 50 cents upwards to $1.50 per square inch for my watercolors. If custom framed I would add that cost as well.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 12, 2013

In your letter, you say “If you paint a range of sizes, your smallest need to be underpriced according to their size, and your largest need to be overpriced according to their size. Your larger masterpieces test the upper limits of your prices. As in the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” situation, the middle sizes should be priced ‘just right.'” This is opposite of what I have experienced. My smaller paintings are slightly more per square inch and the largest paintings are slightly less per square inch. Yes the middle size paintings are the relative life-blood of the business and where I came up with what my pricing should be per square inch. I also add double the cost of framing to it … which assures I receive my framing cost back (and I do buy at wholesale for the framing). In my opinion, those larger paintings are priced just slightly under the normal per-square-inch formula to give an incentive to purchase a larger painting. More value for the money! And, I always figure out what the price is for a gallery that charges 50% and that becomes my pricing all places. When I sell a painting myself, I have worked hard for that 50% the gallery gets for promoting, taking credit cards, showing, travel, etc.

From: Kelley Carey MacDonald — Mar 12, 2013

I think you have to use kind of a bell curve if you’re doing per sq inch. The little ones have to be MORE than your ppi, and the larger one less. At least till you’re famous. :) Then go ahead and charge the higher price for the biggest ones. But the buying public always does want to know ‘how long did it take you?’ A teacher of mine used to say “50 years plus 4 hours..”

From: Dwight — Mar 12, 2013

After decades of selling paintings both ways…in galleries and on my own, I agree with Robert’s notion of pricing. Extra for big and below average for small. I do use a per inch beginning price set but give myself wiggle room up and down depending on size and other less tangible factors if they apply.

From: Bonnie Hamlin — Mar 12, 2013

I think it is best if self selling artists price their work the same as if it was in a gallery (and hopefully aim for as high or higher quality in the art). In order to promote and sell art (doing the job of a gallery) it will likely cost the same as the 50% commission the gallery takes. In fact the self selling artists usually need to do more promotion to make up for the credibility the galleries provide. Then if they get tired of spending 50% of their time marketing they can hire someone or work with a gallery and not have to change their prices.

From: Jeanette Paul — Mar 12, 2013

Are you saying that size is relative to what a painter is doing, or is there and actual middle-size range? If so, could you outline dimensions please. I guess that everything I’ve done so far could be considered small.

From: Vicki Ross — Mar 12, 2013

Marsha, everyone else, I was going to say the same thing. I studied Roberts pricing suggestions years ago and had the same idea about more on smaller less on larger. Wll be interesting to hear from Robert!

From: John MacKenzie — Mar 12, 2013

I’m new to process of pricing and selling my art. I have heard that some artists decide on pricing by square inch of canvas. Does anyone have any guidelines around what is a reasonable price per square inch? Something like beginner $2.00 per sq in, intermediate $3.00 per sq in and master $5.00 per sq in.

From: Laura — Mar 12, 2013

Wes, unfortenately the price has to reflect the value for the buyer, not our own investment. The bigger the painting, the bigger perceived value for the client. John, I have been selling for 8 years with galleries and I use $2.5 per square inch. Hope this helps.

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 12, 2013

There are factors with this discussion that bear mentioning. The Internet has altered the art market in ways I think people still ignore. There was a time an artist had to have gallery representation – it was the only valid outlet to sell. Consumers can now buy anything online. The democratization of so many industries, including art, has made mini-galleries of artists merchandizing themselves. On the negative side, that has knocked many galleries off their feet and their doors closed … but so have other industries. Heavy on the plus side, it has allowed artists the opportunity to compete and has somewhat leveled the playing field; neither are they limited by locale anymore. Retail businesses have had to restructure and adapt to their competitors who are just a click away, open 24hrs, world wide. Why shouldn’t galleries as well? Or, do they still cling to the business model that used to work but isn’t as dominant today? I know, it’s a business and most galleries earn their fees. But marketing ourselves has overhead as much as galleries do. The difference is instead of promoting the gallery as a business entity, the artist (or spouse, agent, etc.) is promoting his or herself and no one else. Merchandizing energy and resources are committed to sell only one artist’s work. Another question … why should website artists price their work half of what a gallery-represented artist is priced? You’re not paying a 50% commission but how do art patrons make an equitable comparison? They may like two similar paintings; the independent guy prices his at $3,000 and his local gallery prices the other at $7,500. Honestly, I think the gallery and the independent artist equally undermine themselves by not pricing their works comparitively. A patron may buy the independent work because it is cheaper … the artist might command a higher price and the gallery might make a sale because they are within the same price structure. Ultimately it would be the quality of the painting that makes that determination. The canvas size controversy is interesting … I wish I could turn out a small painting but it’s not in me to do so. There is such a thing as too small and too big … but shouldn’t we paint the size canvas the subject commands?

From: Peter Heineman — Mar 12, 2013

I haven’t ever seen a dealer/gallery who will take 25%-I heard of it 25 years ago, but never encountered one. Most galleries I have worked with take 50% and some take 60%.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 12, 2013

I have found there are several other venues where you can work with pricing. One is the coop galleries, tent shows and the other is the “show” galleries. In the coop galleries pricing is completely up to you. Increasing price by size is an excellant idea and should be utilized by artists no matter in what price bracket you are. The “show” galleries are galleries where they have four shows a year with different themes. I’ve been in one for the last three years and pricing is totally up to me.(I include entry fees and dealer commissions in my price) The last venue, the tent shows– Here I have the most latitude with price. Since I am doing the selling directly, I can work with the price to make the sale. I don’t worry about commissions and in some cases taxes. I generally make back my entry fee on the first sale. I’ve tried increasing prices yearly with little effect. With the economy being what it is, this hasn’t worked for me. Since I have a sales history going back some time. I charge more for the newer works as they are exhibited, again keeping in mind the size differential.

From: Mary Champion — Mar 12, 2013

I would just make it clear to emerging artists that the “two different price lists” you refer to in your opening paragraph are a “one or the other” choice; your work should be the same retail price for every occasion, whether at a gallery show or from your own website.

From: Richard Gagnon — Mar 12, 2013

Another problem with self sellers crossing over to galleries is that they have established a price range for their work that is based on not having a dealer and therefore lower. They may not be able to justify a bump in price and end up with less in their pocket. On the other hand volume will make up the difference, he said tongue in cheek.

From: Pat Stamp — Mar 12, 2013

When discussing pricing with artist friends I always say we should pay ourselves to sell our own work just as we would a gallery. A lot of time can be sucked up dealing with clients. A lot of energy and patience is required. Sometimes I call it “aggravation pay” but no matter what, my work has one price except when I choose to give a regular client, a family member or someone I’ve kept waiting a discount.

From: Mary Erickson — Mar 12, 2013

Successful artists should disagree with your statement that online “prices can be lower.” The retail price of a painting should be consistent, no matter the venue. The commission paid to a gallery or dealer is a cost of business to the artist, the same as a booth fee, travel expenses, paint and canvas, electricity for the studio, insurance, etc. If an artists is willing to pay someone to take the time and expense to sell her work, why would she not pay herself for that job? An artist’s time is best spent in the studio creating. If someone has the honor of dealing directly with that artist, then they should pay the same (if not more!) Self promoting artists need to realize that they have to be paid for the time spent on the computer if they want to be successful. Secondly, by underselling your own gallery, you are undercutting your sales partner and devaluing your own work.

From: sameretansley — Mar 12, 2013

Living in a small country and selling my own work for the past 30 years I try not to undercut the galleries as I sometimes do sell my work through them and as far as I’m concerned there should be one price for the work, wherever it’s sold. So I give myself the commission for selling it!

From: Mike Barr — Mar 12, 2013

I suspect that the success of online sales is purely anecdotal. There are certainly some heavy-weight online galleries but one would never know how they sell. Their income is enormous just through artists fees. There is no need for them to sell to survive – just like vanity galleries. Selling works for over $1000 via the online shopping cart method sounds more like wishful thinking than fact. I also suspect that success stories for onliners are for works well under $500.

From: John Koehler — Mar 13, 2013

Thanks for the great advice,,,and the comment “dead artist still sell well”, brings to mind ,, “the news of my death is greatly exaggerated.” Have a good day…

From: Nancy — Mar 13, 2013

Readers should keep in mind where Robert is coming from on this matter. He is so well represented across Canada that if he doesn’t bring in $100,000 per month he figures he’s having a bad one.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 13, 2013

Dear Robert, As an artist who just opened a show last Friday night, this letter comes at an interesting time. I agonize about the prices of my works. When I started out, I just went to a gallery and found a piece that was by a local artist and in the size I was working with. I immediately reduced the price of that piece by 40% (the amount galleries usually take). Then a few calculations, I discovered what the piece was selling by the square inch. I then applied that formula to my own work and have increased it by 10% each year. The thing about art is it is a luxury item, it is the LAST thing people buy. So when the economy is tanking, artists need to increase the quality of their work. It has been my experience that artists who don’t get government funding (Grants and bursaries) they have better quality works. Another good thing is do work with smaller canvases when starting out. This is also a good thing to do with established artists. I usually do a series of 12″ canvases with each collection that are the “Snickers Bars” of art and get gobbled up opening night. I have seen artists make every mistake in the book. Pricing their works at a reasonable price one day and then after an article or TV interview they quadruple their prices thinking the exposure will garner them big collectors prices and sales. This can be a difficult bell to un-ring. Artists need to be consistent with their prices and show a steady collection of their works. I have always said “If you want to be rich and famous, then sell real estate”! I must say though Robert, your last quote about self selling artists having trouble getting into galleries offends me. It has been my experience that the artist does more for the gallery than the gallery does for the artist. And because we ‘self sellers” have more experience in selling, we know a think or two, we can sniff out a buyer and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And this etherial world of being an artist and waking up wondering “what am I going to do today while my dealer makes me millions” is really just a pipe dream! Treat it like a business and you can never go wrong. John Ferrie

From: Hugette Delorme — Mar 13, 2013

It’s fairly obvious to me that an artist is better off, and probably a better artist, when he or she is free of commerce.

From: Susan Delaney — Mar 13, 2013
From: Anonymous — Mar 14, 2013

“Some dealers have an intrinsic distaste for other entrepreneurs.” My experience exactly. Being “too smart,” even helpful, with a dealer doesn’t always go over. Mr Genn has a good understanding of human nature. Just like me. I guess we’ve learned.

From: Susan G Holland — Mar 14, 2013

I’ve decided to hand the whole matter to someone who buys art for her interior design business. She has a handle on what people will spend, and on where certain art sells well, at what prices. I’ll name her my agent and give her a piece of anything she sells of mine. Anything helps that takes me out of the realm of quantifying the value of my art.

From: Peter brown — Mar 14, 2013

Make art because you enjoy making art. The art market is fickle. Your art dealer wants another painting that looks like the one he just sold. Get caught in that trap and you will never grow. You will be stuck making merchandise rather than art. Besides, most all of the best artists died broke.

From: Gavin Calf — Mar 14, 2013

I like Mike Barr’s comment. I hardly ever have sold in the net while my gallery sales AND prices are steadily rising. I need the good dealer’s knowledge of their market, their buy in and art sales know-how. However I held three private drawing exhibitions and made good money on what otherwise would have been pulped.

From: anon — Mar 15, 2013
From: Susan Will — Mar 18, 2013
From: Gail Shepley — Mar 18, 2013

I have a suggestion for art pricing, that is to price per square inch (or centimeter, whatever)…I can sell reasonably well to common everyday folk at a reasonably affordable range…flowers probably…to match living rooms…sigh….

From: Rainforest — Mar 18, 2013

Dealers work daily to “share the magic” as Genn says, and save the really creative person a lot of manhandling and hassle. Needless to say I have several wonderful dealers.

From: Valerie Norberry VanOrden — Mar 20, 2013

I guess I’m a shelf-seller, that is, my product is on the shelf. I am awaiting the right venue to sell my pen and ink flourished birds and hymns and scriptures in Spencerian penmanship. Portage, MI (Kalamazoo)

     Featured Workshop: Gregory Frux and Janet Morgan
Gregory Frux and Janet Morgan workshops
Held in Southern Utah, USA   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Water Rock and Ice

acrylic painting, 11 x 14 inches by Brian Buckrell, ON, Canada

  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 Santiago Perez of Boca Raton, FL, USA, who asked, “Can you describe best practices for finding reputable art dealers?” (RG note) Thanks, Santiago. The short answer is to connect with the dealers who really need you, but I’ll work on a longer answer for a twice-weekly letter. And also Mary Erickson of Marshville, NC, USA, who wrote, “The commission paid to a gallery or dealer is a ‘cost of business’ to the artist, the same as a booth fee, travel expenses, paint and canvas, electricity for the studio, insurance, etc. If an artist is willing to pay someone to take the time and expense to sell her work, why would she not pay herself for that job?” And also Richard Gagnon of Knowlton, QC, Canada, who wrote, “Another problem with self-sellers crossing over to galleries is that they have established a price range for their work that is based on not having a dealer and therefore very often lower. They may not be able to justify a bump in price and end up with less in their pocket. On the other hand volume will make up the difference, he said, tongue in cheek.” And also Mary Champion of Leesburg, MD, USA, who wrote, “Your work should be the same retail price for every occasion, whether at a gallery show or from your own website.” And also includes a note from Rick Rotante of Tujunga, CA, USA, commenting, “I have found there are several other venues where you can work with pricing. One is the coop galleries, tent shows and the other is the “show” galleries. In the coop galleries pricing is completely up to you. Increasing price by size is an excellent idea and should be utilized by artists no matter in what price bracket you are. The “show” galleries are galleries where they have four shows a year with different themes. I’ve been in one for the last three years and pricing is totally up to me. (I include entry fees and dealer commissions in my price.) The last venue, the tent shows — here, I have the most latitude with price. Since I am doing the selling directly, I can work with the price to make the sale. I don’t worry about commissions and in some cases taxes. I generally make back my entry fee on the first sale. I’ve tried increasing prices yearly with little effect. With the economy being what it is, this hasn’t worked for me. Since I have a sales history going back some time. I charge more for the newer works as they are exhibited, again keeping in mind the size differential.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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