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Fair Price

I have had conversations lately regarding how to price art for sale. These conversations have been with gallery owners, collectors, and other artists.

I have learned that there is little consensus on the subject. There seems to be as many ideas as there are artists, gallery owners, and collectors. There are ideas that have to due with the artists resumes, education, experience, awards that have been won, sales record, client list, turn over rates, investment potential, and the list goes on and on.

My interest is fairly simple: I want to sell my work. I need to make enough that the proceeds justify the effort, and expense of production. On an emotional level I need to be paid enough that I don't walk away from a transaction resenting the people that have purchased my work.

Recently I was contacted by a potential buyer inquiring about the price of a piece he had seen on display at the local library. My E-mail reply follows...

Thank you for your call about how much you like the cat image at the library. I am interested in selling the piece, but I will have to charge a fair price for it. The question is: What is fair?

This is a question that I have struggled with and discussed at length lately with other artists and gallery owners etc.

When I do custodial work I figure the time it will take and give a price that will pay me $25.00 an hour, plus the cost of equipment and materials, and I get that, and almost no one questions the price. If they do, I don't work for them.

Now, most people don't like custodial work or respect the work, and they certainly don't respect custodians. The general consensus is that it doesn't require any education, thought, or special skill, and that most anyone that can walk and breath can do the work. This said, I ask for and receive $25.00 per hour for this work.

The thing that I find incomprehensible is that the opposite is true of the arts and artists. Almost everyone loves art, claims to respect artists, assumes that they are intelligent, even gifted by God to posses special talents that in God's wisdom have been with held from them personally. In-spite of all of that, when I set a price of less than the minimum wage (which by the way is not a living wage), they will say right to my face that I am not worth it. Even though they have told me that they love the work and can't believe the effort that it must have taken, they don't say they can't afford it (which I can understand), they will say I am not worth it.

What is a fair price? Not counting the time it took to gather the resource material, design and preparation time, I have 189 hours in this piece plus materials. The nearest round number that it comes to is $1850.00. If you don't think you can justify paying that much I will understand, by the same token I hope you will understand why I can't ask for less.

He followed with:

When I become a rich realtor I will purchase one of your wonderful creations! In the meantime I will enjoy them whenever I come across these treasures!


I hope that happens soon. As a poor artist I need the support of as many rich realtors as possible. I will try to hold on to this piece until then.

There was no sale. Maybe the markets for real estate and art will improve. Maybe next time.

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