Peggi Habets asks:
I recently read an article in Art Calendar magazine that said artists should price like retailers, ie, a painting should be priced at $490 (or $470) instead of $500, $990 instead of $1000 and so on. Then I read a newspaper article about a study that showed people bought significantly more at the lower prices, even though they were only $1 less in some cases. The study said that because people read from left to right, they see the lower number and subconsciously make a decision about the price. I always thought that kind of pricing made the artwork seem low-quality or low-cost, and that a client would subconsciously register those thoughts about the artwork. I was curious as to your opinion.
Oh, boy, do I love questions about pricing (not!). I just happen to be in the middle of reading a very tedious, but excellent, book on the subject:
Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art by Olav Velthuis. While its focus is primarily on avant-garde galleries in New York and Amsterdam, he does stress over and over again the various ways in which the art market tries to distance itself from being related to any kind of commerce. In other words, high-end dealers do everything they can (on the face of things) to appear commercial and stress the “higher purpose” of art. To that end, prices are ALWAYS rounded off. You might have a $1250, but you would never have a $1249 or even $1240.
I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the way this part of the market functions. I know it doesn’t completely answer the question, but I do think you have to price for your market.