Many artists are reluctant to assign their work a fixed price because prices traditionally fluctuate according to geographic location, wealth of buyer, economic times and other factors. For galleries, prices may be posted, but no one knows how much the galleries actually receive for the work. Discretion and privacy are the galleries’ prevailing practices, but is enshrining secrecy in the best interest of emerging artists? As Thomas pointed out last night, it is accepted that prices for most other commodities fluctuate from year to year, region to region, for largely valid reasons. So why be so coy about art prices in particular?
In fact, fluid, secretive pricing alienates emerging art buyers and even other artists from buying art. We would suggest that artists establish and post prices for their work, as Thomas did recently when she participated in the Elizabeth Foundation Open Studio. Over the course of three days, Thomas sold numerous pieces, mostly to other artists who probably would have been too embarrassed to ask about prices had they not been clearly marked.
Jason Andrew of Norte Maar and STOREFRONT and Fred Valentine, who recently opened the gallery Valentine in Ridgewood, agree that pricing art work shouldn’t be such a mysterious, unspeakable topic for artists who haven’t begun to sell their work. In an effort to grow the low-end market, Fred has dedicated a small area in the front of his gallery to artwork under five hundred dollars. “I am always looking for items and art for the ‘Gift Shop,” he said. “I take 25% off anything in the gallery under $1,000.00 and this allows the artist to keep the price reasonable but still not feel like they are giving it away.”
Jason, who has worked with numerous emerging artists at both Norte Maar and STOREFRONT, believes that emerging artists routinely overprice their work. He thinks that in establishing a market for their projects, they ought to look at mainly the cost of materials and the time it took to make each piece rather than what other artists are charging, which is usually too high. Getting the work on someone’s wall is preferable to keeping it in storage while waiting for demand to magically materialize on its own.
In this heady time of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Artworld, and Occupy Museums, artists need to pay due attention to the business side of their own art practices. We need to occupy ourselves. It’s fine to call attention to the exclusionary and unfair practices that are rampant in the art world. But we should also start thinking about how we can help ourselves. Talking openly about how we price our work, though awkward at first, was a good start.