Pricing art - those of us who have to do it know how hard it is. One the one hand, the artist wants the piece to sell. On the other, he or she doesn't want to give it away. It's one of the most annoying conundrums we artists face and most artists DREAD the task.
I've overheard many people say that someone's art is too expensive. In this economic climate, some art may be out of reach right now, and that's totally understandable. What I will try to explain in this note is how art is priced and why.
Time: I'm a collagist/ephemeraologist. I spend hours searching for the right pieces to complement my collages. I absolutely adore my job and I can't believe I get to do this as my career. But it is still my time, and unlike a 9-5 job, I'll never recuperate that time in my pricing. But yes, a very minuscule amount of time is factored in to my pricing.
Materials: As those of you who regularly read my blog know, I purchase many different items for use in my collages. These items cost money. I have to factor my purchases in to my pricing. Thankfully, the stuff I use isn't too expensive, but it's not free.
Labor: Most of my collages take between 4-5 hours to create. Some of my large pieces take between 15-20. At a job, you get paid a certain amount per hour. Artists don't have that kind of pay scale - if we did, you'd see our prices far higher than they are. For example - if I made $10/hour (about minimum wage), those large pieces would start at about $150, not factoring in any of my materials, time, commission or labor (or possibly framing).
Framing: When I frame pieces, I get them professionally framed. I want them to look their absolute best - if you're going to live with one of my pieces in your home, it should last a lifetime. But framing costs money. I have to charge more for my framed pieces because, in order to make a profit, I have to regain my framing costs.
Commission: If an artist's work is hanging in a gallery or exhibit space, there is a built-in cost of commission from that venue. Did you know that galleries or venues normally ask 30-40% for a commission? Here's an example: let's say that I have a piece that I want to price at $100 myself. Now if a gallery or venue wants to display it, I'm going to give them a price of $150. Why? Well, at 30% commission I have to charge half again as much because they're taking a third of the price. Some big-city galleries charge up to FIFTY percent. All of a sudden, the artist has to double their price because the venue gets half.
All of these things determine how much my art will cost. The most important thing to me, of course, is that you like what I do. I hope you do. But the next time you ask me why I charge what I charge, I will refer you to this note. Hopefully this explains a lot. :D
P.S. If you're at an exhibit or art sale, it is considered very bad form to ask the artist why they priced their work the way they did. They definitely have their reasons and most artists AGONIZE over pricing. If you think it's too expensive, it's best to keep that information to yourself. Also, an exhibit is not a flea market - NEVER ask if the price can be reduced or discounted.