When to Post Prices for Your Art

Yesterday I brought up the topic of whether or not you should post your prices on your Web site. Below is an Art Marketing Action newsletter I wrote in March of 2004, which covers posting prices anywhere. While some of my opinions may have changed, I didn’t edit, but left as is.

There are certain unwritten rules about displaying your prices next to your artwork. Sometimes it’s a good idea. Other times it is not.

Web Sites
If your goal is to find top-drawer gallery representation and you are giving your URL to dealers, your site will not have prices next to your art or a shopping cart. After all, a gallery wouldn’t be pleased to know you are selling art on the side. Instead, you would have interested site visitors contact you for more information. If you already have representation, you should have an arrangement with your gallery to link to their site so that visitors can contact them directly. This should eliminate any conflicts with your dealer.

It is still considered gauche in the artworld to equate art with money. If you are trying to gain a foothold in the artworld, particularly with museum curators, leave the prices off. Period. Maybe this will change someday, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

On the other hand, you are much less constrained if you are trying to sell as much art as possible from your site. The general public usually has no preconceived notion about what is proper when it comes to selling art. Having said that, I still prefer prices be listed separately from the image. Either you keep a separate pricing sheet on your site or have them contact you for prices.

Exhibition Spaces
Some galleries choose to display prices next to the artwork, but most high-end galleries will have a price list separate from the artwork for those interested. If you are showing your work in non-art venues such as retail and coffee shops or bookstores, you probably want to post your price and contact information because the employees might not be informed if a customer has a question about your work. Ask the venue if they have guidelines.

Open Studios
Do whatever you feel most comfortable with at your open studio. I’m inclined to think you’ll create a more visitor-friendly atmosphere with prices in plain view—especially if people came knowing you are trying to sell your work.

Art Fairs & Festivals
Post your prices for everyone to see at art fairs and festivals. It’s just how things are done here.

Museums
Art museums never post prices of artwork. Okay, I know there are exceptions in smaller museums. But, in general, it is against the ethics policies of most museums to sell artwork. Posting prices also creates insurance and security problems for them. Anyone interested in purchasing art that is for sale (i.e. not part of the museum’s collection) is usually referred to the artist or gallery directly.

Knowing what you want from your Web site, exhibitions, and career will help you make the right decision about posting your prices.

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10 comments to When to Post Prices for Your Art

  • Definitely something to think about when setting up a website. I think I will try to shoot for that in the future. Right now I am working on upping the level of quality of my art… searching for perfection and direction so to speak ;)

  • Greg Rapier

    I have prices on my artwork on my web site. As for making money from my artwork I am not ashamed to make money. I didn’t get into art to make money. I got into art because I love to do oil paintings. But that said the more I make the more oil paintings I can do. If I can make enough money to support my family and me and have the nicer things in life, all the better. I have worked since I was 9 years old starting in my dads service station. Now I am a millwright in a winery and I get payed well and I should. When I go to the store they want money. I see people that are in high places and getting respect because they have money. Some of these same people are bum’s but the world looks up to people with money. I think that is wrong but painting good art that people are willing to pay for? Thats a good thing. I live in the forests of California and there are lots of trees and non of them grow money. The only way I have found to make money is to work and work hard for it. So I am not ashamed to make money for my work.

  • Ill post this here as well…. Never put your prices by your pieces on your website, I found out the hard way. I have a patron who had a very wealthy friend who wanted to buy a piece from my website. I had a discounted price listed, because my style had changed considerably. This person, who did buy the piece, told my patron his would have paid thousands of dollars for it, I had $400 listed. :-( Lesson learned.

  • Carnival of the Creators #8

    Modern Art Obsession blogs on New York Magazine’s “The Art Market Will Crash” Story. Alisha Vincent talks about under-pricing our work in Art Philanthropists, and Alyson Stanfield discusses When to Post Prices for Your Art.

  • I had a someone tell me I shouldn’t have my prices up at my studio, but I was very skeptical about that. When I re-arranged pieces there, I included 3 that had been out at a show and so were without prices. As an experiment, I left the prices off of these 3. These were some of my strongest pieces and I noticed one gentleman looking at one repeatedly. I spoke with him about what subjects he liked, and that I noticed he seemed particularly drawn to the one painting. He replied ” I do love it, but I notice it has no price, so I am sure it is too much $ for me”. I quoted him the price and he said it wasn’t as high as he feared and he would look at his space at home and consider returning for it. It confirmed my gut feeling that if people have to ask for prices, they will assume they are too high for them and may easily walk out without buying. I think that may well apply to web sites also.

  • About pricing work on your website, I have a comment as a frequent BUYER of art directly from artists’ websites. If I’m interested in a piece but I can’t find the price on the website, chances are I’ll just move on to someone else’s site. Why? First, it’s more trouble for me to have to contact the artist. When I’m looking for new artwork, I want to buy it now and not have to wait around to hear back from someone about the price. Second, if the price comes back and it’s more than I can afford or am willing to pay, I feel embarrassed. Do I respond to the artist or not? If so, what do I say? I’d rather not have to deal with the problem.

  • I think it is a very strange society we live in! We want to know that the people we buy goods and services from (whether artist, builder or CPA) are better and more successful than the others, and can therefore command higher prices. But at the same time, we get squeamish when it comes to asking for money in return for our art! As a former potter who back in the day did lots of shows and fairs, as well as someone who over the years has bought quite a bit of art I would say this: If you want people to buy your work, show them the respect and common decency to inform them clearly, right up front, what it’s going to cost. I find it offensive when I walk into a gallery selling fine art or fine craft, and find that the prices are purposefully hidden from me. I want to know what it costs, and I don’t want to have to ask! No matter how much I love a piece, before I can even BEGIN to think about buying it, I need to know what it costs. Post the price clearly. I can accept it being on a price list, but put the list where I can see it, please.

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