Art pricing–here we go again

Here are some current/recent/updated thoughts on pricing fine art. Am anxious to hear if you have other experiences or insight.

  • You have one price for your art and one price only–regardless of where you sell it (from your studio, at a gallery, to a designer).
  • Always give your galleries the retail price and expect it to be offered at that price. Any discounts the gallery might allow should be in your contract. See SNAG’s Professional Guidelines for consignment agreements.
  • If a designer asks for a discount, offer her 20% that she can pass along to the client. If she has a showroom, you can work out a consignment agreement. But do not give her the wholesale price. Designers are used to buying stuff wholesale, but fine art is not a wholesaling business.
  • When you just give a wholesale price, you are allowing the other person to sell at any price they choose. You are giving away your power to control your prices.

Check out the blog category Art Pricing.

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9 comments to Art pricing–here we go again

  • I’m glad to hear this advice. I have often wondered about this. One question: Is the expectation that designers always pass along the purchase price to the end customer, and never mark up? If so then how could you possibly control that?

  • Matt: I think you should state that. “I am happy to offer you a 20% discount that you can pass on to your clients.” You could also put some sort of an agreement in writing. I guess there is no way to control it.

  • for me, it seems , that pricing structure varies depending on the culture of the gallery I am working with …each one has been unique…here are some examples…my African gallery liked pricing to be as low as possible from the start, no beating around the bush so to speak …my Persian gallery liked to start at the highest possible asking price & let the collector haggle down, haggling was considered a social event …my current Austrian style gallery likes to work on an incremental formula, where first works are inexpensive & later works become more expensive, based on increased skill…my Korean gallery liked works to be at the market price for that location , market including non-works of art- so, if the consumer in that neighborhood could comfortably spend 300 dollars in one day, then everything was priced at 300 dollars …my Canadian gallery priced everything at one thousand dollars, because that was easy to remember (discounts were given in the back room)…each gallery unique … although all expected studio & website prices to be same as gallery prices, & nobody liked more than one gallery per artist at a time, nor did they really like artist selling directly either …currently have a 10% discount written into contract by gallery discretion (can go to anybody) …(returned to old gallery Monday , after recently getting accepted by new one , decided all this switching is driving everyone nuts…) hope this is helpful…

  • There is a semantic issue here that is a bit confusing. When I sell through a gallery and they earn a 40% commission on the sale, I am in effect, selling the art to the gallery at a discount. To me it is essential that a designer sell my work for the same price that a gallery is selling it for. To make a reasonable profit for that sale it would only seem right to give the designer a discount (or you could call it a before-the-final-sale commission). The only difference I see between the “discounting” to the designer and “commission” given to the gallery is the timing of the final sale to a collector, what you call it and the amount I get to put in my pocket. For the collector, who I believe is the most important person in the mix, the price must be the same regardless from whom they purchase it, whether from a gallery, a designer or directly from me. Of course I do agree that the final pricing options be clearly spelled out in a contract. A contract I had with a gallery clearly limited the amount that they could adjust the price of my work before getting my approval. Seemed very reasonable to me.

  • I agree with those exact guidelines. RE: Dealing with Decorators/Designers. I have dealt with decorators for over a decade, and in fact, that is how I make the bulk of my income. It is my understanding that the 20% “designer discount” is the norm, and if they charge the client more, then it is considered “unethical.” I have only had positive experiences with decorators, but I have known a few artists who have experienced this price inflating. The decorator in question was notorious for doing this to her clients and eventually nobody would work with her (clients, muralists, artists, contractors, etc). More often than not, the client is told to pay me directly, and in turn, I cut the decorator a 20% check. Also, if a decorator sends a potential client directly to my studio and they end up purchasing something, I cut the designer a 20% “referral fee”. Any more than 20% is up to you. But keep in mind that a decorator does not staff a gallery 6 days a week, host art openings, spend money on advertising, marketing, website, etc – like a gallery does. RE: Galleries who want to raise the price of your work. Occasionally a gallery will ask me to raise (or god forbid, lower) my price – my standard response is that “I would prefer to keep my prices consistent. If there is a good selling record, then I would seriously consider raising my prices across the board. You have to go into the situation with a confident business like attitude. You are the artist and you need to sell your work and make money, and the gallery is going to help you by doing the following…..(advertising, marketing, staffing, etc) while they make money off of you. You need to keep in mind that you have the upper hand and don’t let them “bully” you. They are sales people and that is their personality. You need each other.

  • Excellent summary. Thank you. Regarding discounts/commissions: I usually split these into two categories. I offer a 50% commission to anyone who actively promotes and shows my work, plus who also handles all customer interactions and sales. I offer a 10-20% “referral fee” to anyone who shows my work on request, and just passes the customer on to me. The referral fee is basically a marketing cost: I figure it costs me 10-20% of a product price to get it in front of a customer, whether it is through galleries, shows, ads, whatever.

  • The difference between the gallery and designer “discounts” is related to how they make their money. A gallery is in the retail product business, they earn by markup on products. Most designers are in the service business, they charge a separate service fee and usually do not mark up products. In business it is usually considered not ethical to charge a product markup AND a service fee. It’s one or the other, not both. Exception: If you offer services and products as separate items/purchases, then its fine.

  • christy

    How do you handle it when a end user requests a discount? Large ‘corporate’ collection, but expect the artist to give a discount equivalent to what a gallery commission would be?

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