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.
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.
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.
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.
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.