48 comments to Pricing for Art Consultants :: Deep Thought Thursday
I must be quite oblivious since I have no idea what this means – what is an “art consultant?” Would that be like a decorator or interior designer?
Ha! Patricia beat me to it! I’ve never even heard of an Art Consultant – where do these people hang out? Only in big cities/ major art markets? How do I promote to them, if I can’t find them? (joke) … tel us more, Alyson!
I have written an eBook that guides artists through selling their art to the corporate market including the healthcare industry and the hospitality market. They all work through art consultants. In my book I explained why it’s such a lucrative market, what they are looking for, and how to get one’s work to them. The book also provides a comprehensive list of key industry contacts so the leg work has been done for you! The corporate art market is an especially lucrative market yet many, if not most, artists overlook it. You can download my book at: http://artistadvisory.com/ebook.html
One of the entries for Art Consultants under Google says they provide art consulting services for corporate, commercial, and residential settings. Hmmm. Sounds like they recommend/provide artwork for people/businesses that don’t have the time or expertise to get it themselves. Hopefully they learn a bit about their clients before procuring and it’s not one of these “Oh, we have Claudine -she does the artwork for very select clientele. Yes, that’s a Matisse -I think he is one of the up and coming artists.”
Wholesale? Guess it depends on how they work with the recipients of the art. If they charge them retail, then they would be making their money much as a gallery would; by taking a cut of your retail price. However, if they are providing work to their customers at a volume discount, I guess one would have to think about whether they wanted their work going to the public at a discount and whether the extra low price you might get was worth the exposure. Another question might be are the consultants working sort of in the manner of a real estate broker? And if so, are they working for the purchaser or the seller (the artist)?
I am not sure what to think … are we talking about more of a decorative style being sold to interior decorators or ? I didn’t think that the art consultant worked as a wholesaler, but then again, I have never actually known a consultant, I thought they were more in line with an art representative … Consultants matched people/corporations with the art/artist… have I interpreted this wrong?
The consultant needs to be paid so if there is not a fee/commission involved, is the wholesale price to compensate for the lack of fee?
But if this is the case, does this not make one more of a wholesaler than consultant?
I treat most art consultants and designers much like my galleries, as I would nearly always be more happy painting then selling.
I also love corporate clients and doing large scale art work which has been difficult to sell in the private market as of late.
It seems they want varying percentages of the sale but usually up to a 60/40 split is fine by me.
Yes – I have worked with art consultants and it usually is a 50/50 split. I believe it’s worth it. The art consultants I have worked with have spent hours/days presenting work to the buyers (most of my work sold by art consultants has been purchased by hospitals). After the art is chosen, they are responsible for the matting, framing and most of the time, the hanging of the art work.
How is an art consultant different from an artists rep? If they are that good at selling then I’d be interested in looking into this further at some point.
Based on what Dianne Poinski has said, I would say it’s definitely okay. It’s important to work from a “many-spoked wheel” when selling your art, I think, the art consultant being one of those spokes alongside galleries, art shows, web site, etc.
I haven’t budged from my (new for the better demand) one third commission to anybody since the economy finally( after 9 long years) bounced back here around March…
It would depend if the consultant was getting paid by their client. Typically they do. If they are why should I give them my wholesale price? A discounted price yes – but not my wholesale price. Isn’t this the same as working with an interior designer?
Gallery owners do not get an artist’s wholesale price – why should an art consultant?
Wait. Gallery owners don’t get wholesale prices? Who does, then? Or do you mean the owners buying for themselves not for the gallery?
No gallery owners don’t get wholesale. When pricing your work – you have to cover your costs which gives you the wholesale price and then you add whatever percentage you’ve negotiated with the gallery -that is the retail price.
Wholesale isn’t costs + overhead + minimum profit? What is the point of wholesale, then? Seems like the definition must vary by field (industry?).
Maybe it does vary by industry.
Typically in fine art what the gallery charges for my work and what I charge for my work has to be the same. You don’t undercut your gallery. So if I only calculated my costs as you do above and sold through a gallery that took 50%of the sale I would not cover my costs.
How do you typically sell your art jewelry?
I think I didn’t explain properly. My wholesale price includes a profit otherwise I am losing money. My retail price is what a gallery would charge as well. Like you, I would not undercut a gallery who has my work for sale. The calculation I gave was an oversimplified calculation for the wholesale price – the price a gallery would pay me if they bought the piece outright. If they want a commission arrangement it works differently. Then the selling price is calculated on what I insist on receiving plus whatever will give them the percentage they want. In general, I will not let my art jewelry out for less than 60 percent of the retail for consignment. That said, most of my major works that have sold, have not gone through a gallery middleman other than online venues such as Etsy or 1000Markets (both of whom have very small commission fees).
I started out as a painter first, though I never really got into galleries with them so I have no idea what’s standard for paintings.
When you say commission – do you mean consignment? You also reference your wholesale price and your retail price. What is the difference between the two? Sorry I’m still a little fuzzy about how you come up with your pricing.
typically these days an art gallery takes between a 40 – 50% commission -and I’ve heard that now some galleries are asking for a 60% commission
Sorry, yes, “commission arrangement” does mean consignment in this case. I know that the two terms are not the same – except when they are and it does get confusing!
Why does “he commissioned a work” mean one thing and “our commission fees are…” mean something else? English! What a language (as my late ex would say). Etsy, for example takes commission fees – a percentage of each sale. One puts a work into a shop “on consignment,” though a consignment store generally sells used stuff (baby clothes, toys etc).
I’m sorry I hope I didn’t make it worse.
60% cut to the gallery sucks. Shops and galleries here in CT that I’ve spoken with mostly want 50%. I’ll be self-representing, thanks. They have our work with no incentive to sell. I think that’s a bad idea.
After going back and reading how you price your work you are doing it correctly, you are calculating all of your costs (material, overhead and labor hrs) adding a profit % and then adding whatever commission amount you need to pay on top.
I don’t agree with you about galleries (even though I choose to self represent). Yes I think 60% is too high, but 40 -50% is reasonable when you think of what it costs them to run their businesses. Even though they don’t buy the work outright, they do have a huge incentive to sell. They don’t make any money unless they sell artwork! They get our work in front of a a whole section of people that probably would never see our work, our work is out there 7 days a week, they put on exhibitions. How much would that cost you to do on your own? When you think about that, they do earn their 50%.
Galleries who do both consignment and outright purchasing are going to concentrate on selling those pieces for which they have already laid out the cash. That puts consignees works in a lower tier of importance.
Yes, they have overhead and if they bought the pieces I would be happy to sell at 50% of my retail price. But a shop or gallery that insists on consignment is paying ONLY their overhead not their cost of inventory. Yes, the overhead might be high, but I have overhead as well even if it is different and they can always mark up a piece however high they want to in the end. That’s one of the ways value for art work increases.
I think it’s a very complex topic with many possibilities and no single correct answer exists.
You are right for sure, it is a complex subject and not one venue for selling artwork fits all.
Thanks for the discussion
I still stick to my original opinion that I would not sell to an art consultant at my wholesale price.
Thank you! I enjoyed the discussion as well.
I visited your site; you have quite a way with equines in motion! Made me smile.
Thank you Patricia for your kind comment about my artwork. I am always glad when someone says that my paintings make them smile!
I have an interesting blog post for you to read – I’ve sent you an email with the link.
Thanks! I got the email though I have not had a chance to visit the website yet. Hope to do tomorrow (Thursday).
Thank you for this interesting though & the ensuing discussion, which I found insightful and very timely. I am currently forging a business as an art consultant, and am working out how to manage my fees and arrangements with artists and galleries. My role is to help my clients find art for their homes and businesses, and to help negotiate for them to obtain that art. The idea is that in most cases I am able to offer my clients a discount over the normal retail prices, as well as helping them to navigate the art world, which to laypeople is often seen as elite and intimidating. I hope to establish a relationship with many artists and be able to introduce my clients to the more human side of the art market.
Dear Ms. Suskin,
Best of luck with your new business. It appears from your previous experience that you are familiar with the field and have had success with both clients and artists.
I’m a full-time artist and have worked with art consultants over the years. I’ve completed several public art commissions. I would be interested in speaking with you, and have included my website address if you’d like to review my portfolio.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thank you for your good wishes, and for sharing your website. I find your work quite lovely, and will keep it in mind. I am currently the gallery director for an Old Master painting gallery in New York, and we have many landscapes which yours are reminiscent of, with a fresh eye of course.
Alexa – when you work with your clients, I assume that you are being paid by them? May I ask why do you have to offer your clients a discount on the art? I am very interested in your reply.
Honestly, I have never worked with an art consultant. I am interested to know more about this field from a practitioner. My art is not in any galleries at the moment and I have been concentrating on being a self-representing artist without trying very hard to get into galleries.
If the collector gets a discount and the consultant gets a commission (fee?) where does the artist get her profit?
Artists with gallery representation set the prices for their art with their dealer. Artists who sell their art themselves also set their prices, and in either case there is always some “wiggle room” within the scope of still making a profit. My model (when dealing directly with artists) is not to make a commission – I am paid by my clients – so therefore I can negotiate a fair price with the artist – something that is less than their “retail” price but still makes them a decent profit – while still allowing my clients to purchase at a discount. When dealing with a gallery there is another factor added into the mix, which is where it gets a bit trickier, but most retail prices for art include pretty hefty markups, and an artist who isn’t able to handle a 10-30% discount should probably re-evaluate their costs and their prices.
Alexa, I see. This clarifies a lot for me. Is your business model – working as a consultant to the collector instead of on commission from the artists – standard for art consultants? It seems to me this is what differentiates you from an artists’ rep.
I agree that the artist should be able to account for a 10% to 30% discount otherwise said artist is selling at wholesale to their retail purchasers.
I take it then, an art consultant amasses a collection of various artists with various styles and messages from whom they generally purchase the art. I think I would not mind being on the list of a few art consultants.
Thank you so much for answering and taking the time to help me better understand your field.
Yes, I am being paid by my clients, on a consultancy basis rather than on commission (many if not most art consultants work of commission for their clients and galleries). As a professional consultant, I am able to negotiate a discount for purchases from artists and dealers, which I pass on to my clients. Since my clients are paying me directly for my services, I think it would be less than ethical to charge my clients full price for a work when I am actually able to arrange a discount.
Thank you for your answer Alexa. What if an artist would not give you a discount – would you still purchase the artwork?
[…] your prices as retail prices. When you draw up a contract with a gallery, retailer, or art consultant, make sure you list your prices as retail prices. If you list only wholesale prices, the other […]
I am severely confused. So how should I go about pricing my art? I mean, I have a base line cost, this is the amount that I need to get back in order to make a profit of any sort, If I were to sell to a gallery or to a marketer would I have to mark it up exponentially in my online store to match the cost of buying similar art from the gallery, or what? I don’t want to feel like I am ripping people off by making them pay two or three times what I need to get back.
Charlie: Keep in mind that whenever you sell at wholesale (which is what you’re doing), others have control over your pricing. This is completely fine if you’re happy with what you get back and with not knowing what the work sells for.
Retailers can mark up your work 3x or more without your knowing. And they pocket the extra — not you.
I work at an art consulting firm/gallery in the Washington DC area. Most of our clients are corporate clients: corporate headquarters, law firms, lobbying organizations, hospitals, etc.
To answer some of the questions that have been asked by artists: generally we charge our clients for the consulting itself, as it does cost us money to talk with clients, visit spaces, find art/artists, work up presentations to our clients, etc. We also make money on the installation and framing. This allows us to give a fairly substantial discount on art (especially when the client purchases a lot of art by one artist) to our clients and still come out ahead while also paying the artists their percent of the split. The amount of these splits can vary for us substantially but 50/50 is fairly standard for us. So, artists almost always only charge us their net/wholesale price (i.e. their price to a gallery) rather than retail.
There were some concerns about consultants letting consigned works “sit” in favor of selling art we’ve already paid for. This would be a legitimate concern and I can’t say with any certainty what other consulting firms tend to do, but the vast majority of art we have available in our gallery is on consignment rather than owned by us. Typically, the art we sell to a client is a mixture of pieces we already have in our gallery on consignment and work we order/commission directly from the artists at the time of the job. The fact is that selling art on consignment keeps our art current as the artists we work with are eager to have their newest work represented by us. If we buy art, we’re stuck with it until we can sell it, so consignment is the norm.
In conclusion, I agree with what a poster above me said: art consulting is another “spoke in the wheel” when it comes to marketing artwork to potential buyers. In the corporate world especially, many clients simply don’t have the expertise (or desire) to spend time finding art for office spaces on their own and thus we’re able to reach a substantial (and well-funded) market that artists themselves might not otherwise have access to. Furthermore, we establish relationships with both artists and clients that can (and have) span(ned) decades; we have repeat clients who trust our sensibilities and our work and artists who appreciate how much of their work we’ve been able to put into clients’ hands. So long as you’re comfortable giving the same sort of discounts you’d give to any art gallery, working with an art consulting firm is worthwhile.
Jim: If I understand correctly, this is what I’m having a problem with. You make money from both sides. So, technically, you’re representing both your client and the artist. I know it’s not just you doing this, but I have a problem with it. I think it’s unethical. Although I have to admit it’s a good business model!
I’d be really curious as to what you make out of that 50%. You say “a fairly substantial discount on art” for your clients, but what does that mean?
If a piece of art costs $5000 and the artist gets $2500, what does the client pay? $4000? That means you make $1500 and get additional money from the client.
I guess it’s really a gallery model. I’m just having a hard time coming to grips with the ethics of representing both the buyer (client #1) and the artist (client #2).
The discount depends on a lot of factors: the volume of art the client buys by a particular artist, the initial split the artist is willing to give to us and, our relationship with the client and, perhaps most importantly, the client’s budget.
I’m not sure how I follow that the consulting model is “unethical.” Our clients aren’t able to get art at wholesale prices from artists anyway; someone explained above that they’d never “undercut” a gallery’s prices. So, even if we charge retail, all the client is paying extra are the consulting and installing fees. They’re under no obligation to work with us. If they’d rather go to galleries or directly to artists, purchase art and have someone install it or install it themselves, that’s perfectly fine! What it boils down to is that the client is paying for both the convenience of having someone handle the art for their businesses as well as our expertise in helping the client choose art that takes advantage of the space. The business model is really no different from that of interior designers. As a point of comparison, an art gallery is a more “passive” business model; they simply have to show the art and attract clientele. Not only are we faced with the same expenses a gallery would have to cover, but we also have to compensate for the expense of meeting with clients, spending time in spaces, building a collection of work and a presentation to show to the client, negotiations over the artwork itself as well as the budget for the project and finally the installation of the work itself. Charging clients only wholesale prices for art or charging only for art and not our other services would simply not be a viable way of doing business.
Furthermore, artists are under no obligation to work with us. We don’t make them sign contracts of any kind and all of the art we have on consignment is given on consignment quite willingly! As I said, we’re simply another avenue that artists can take to have their work available to a wider audience. The choice to have their art consigned to an art consultant is entirely the artists’. We’ve had many artists who didn’t want to work with us at all after hearing that we normally get the same discount given to galleries, but these are in the minority. I encourage you to talk with other artists who have worked with consulting firms and to ask them about their experiences. I can only speak for my own business, but I know that the artists we’ve worked with have had positive experiences.
Jim: Thanks for being here and having this dialogue. I really want to understand it. You all are a fantastic resource for artists and I often recommend artists (certain artists) get in touch with consultants. I’ve never heard of a bad experience with an art consultant.
Really, I’m trying. That’s why I wanted to respond, even though this is a very old post.
I think the numbers speak to the truth of the market, even if the people aren’t… Historically an art agent, art gallery, art consultant whatever the name for the salesperson, would not even breathe to ask more than one third on the commission of a sale of a work of art… The number was carved in stone & anything more was considered an affront to the artist, an insult to think that the selling was worth more than that to the work of art itself…
If the numbers were in fact, 5K retail ask, artist cut 2.5K, collector pays 4K, dealer pockets 1.5K:
then in fact what we are seeing is the numbers trying to correct an imbalance- for that split is closer to the two-third split to the artist, one third split to the dealer, which was traditional…(well, $2400 to the artist is around a 60% split, still low, but closer)…
So the market itself is trying to correct itself back to what was a fair split…around 66% artist to 33% dealer…(2/3 to 1/3)…
The other services that the art consultant is charging for usually were included in his or her 33% cut- the talking, visiting, installing-that was their job… Framing is not a profit maker either, since that should not pay a profit to anybody except the framer-charge should be materials only to collector… Taking the work to the framer is part of the job the consultant gets the one third split for…
Another note: Fine Art is not a volume business…If you think you are in “Fine Art” but are doing a volume business, then what you are in more closely is “Craft”, which doesn’t mind multiples… Large quantities of prints or formulaic churned out repeats of similar subject or colouration to match walls is not fine art… Calling oneself an art consultant but working with volume business is really an ethical oxymoron…
Grain of salt: Times have been tough this past decade for all… Wars & all… Both artists & art consultants have done dubious things… Like Hillary repeated once ‘ what happened in Vegas, stay in Vegas’ – might be applicable to all that has transpired…& possibly forgiven later…
Thank you, Alyson. Just to be clear: while my firm has been in business since 1974, I’m fairly new to the field so I can’t say with any certainty whether or not our business practices are representative of the art consulting business as a whole. I was simply intrigued by the conversation and hoped to shed a little light on the issue from admittedly limited perspective on the industry.
Sari, you bring up valid points that, if we pursued them, would lead to a very interesting discussion about the nature of art and its relationship with commerce and capitalism. The truth of the matter, though, is that our clients, as a rule, have eyes bigger than their wallets. When given a budget under $100,000 to provide artwork for several floors of offices, reception areas, conference rooms and lobbies, working with things like open edition giclees on paper becomes a necessity. Should people not be allowed to have art if they cannot afford the original works? Should music only be available if you purchase the original master tapes yourself for several thousand dollars? Without getting into my personal feelings on the subject, it seems quite clear to me that “the people” have decided that they would rather purchase inexpensive copies of original works of art so that they might be able to enjoy them to some degree rather than be deprived of art entirely. You sell your artwork for money; is that not also damaging to the concept of “art for art’s sake”? My take is that the art consultation business is, perhaps as you pointed out, no less ethical than the “art industry” as a whole.
I really wish you could edit comments!
Some things I forgot to address: as I said above, I’m still new to this business so, Sari, you might very well be correct that things used to be different. However, I have inventory cards for pieces we sold twenty or more years ago that reflect a 50/50 split as a standard. Also, when talking with artists, we almost *never* tell them what the split should be. If an artist wants to loan art to us to put on consignment (sometimes we approach artists to ask if they’re interested; sometimes artists find us and show us their work), the amount of the split is nearly always given to us by the artist. Most artists give us the 50/50 number themselves while others ask for 60/40 or 70/30. However, I think it’s a little unreasonable to expect an art consultant to represent the artist only and not make any money from the client. That would, effectively, make us an art gallery (which we are, too) that does a whole heck of a lot of extra work, with a lot more extra expenses, yet with no additional source of income to make up for it.
The truth is that your business model really relies on volume…Fine Art galleries are a one by one kind of beast…The one by one business model serves its slaves well insofar as a one third to dealer cut is quite handsome when the painting sells for $100,000.00- that sale, earning $33 grand to gallery, pays for a $3 grand a month rental space for a year…So Leo Castelli is still in business…
Art Consultants work with the corporate who like volume because they are also into volume…Mass production, industrial revolution stuff…Volume has slim margins…Which is why after a one third to two thirds split your model is still short…because you are not really in the fine art market, you are just in the market… Giclees, limited edition prints, mass produced kitsch licensing on various products- that is not really the art market that we are talking about here- that again, is just the market & you are subject to its whims & I am sorry for that, for you…Yes, I can see why you have to “add-on” expenses to the client, becaus your clients are tough & savvy at business & your margins are too low…
For the record, no, not everyone gets to own a Ferrari…I pity those who cannot afford a Ferrari, but that is life…I do not think it is my job as an artist to provide Ferraris to those who cannot pay for them…
Corporations should be encouraged to buy solid original art as a good investment & be forced to shy away from short term buys that are cheaper but have no longevity nor really any future viability…It is our & your job to teach them that…
Better to have bare wall space & one great work in the lobby for all to see, than a hundred printed copies for each cubicle…But that is my bias…
Oh, I didn’t want to give the impression that we’re *only* in the business of selling things like open edition prints. In fact, those sorts of jobs are a minority for us and we see it as somewhat of a disappointment that they don’t have the budget to allow us to look for original works or, especially, commissioned pieces that allow the artists themselves to create art with a space or particular presentation in mind. More often, inexpensive prints are reserved for individual offices while we try to get original works into conference rooms, reception areas and especially lobbies. Better that an artist’s original creation is somewhere where it can be appreciated by a larger number of people than stuck behind some executive’s desk, no?
Ooooh….this is an excellent discussion! Just stumbled across it! Thank you for talking about this so transparently and honestly. I think that both Jim and Sari make excellent and valid points.
This discussion makes it so clear that the art industry is not a new developing industry. It is an old and highly sophisticated industry with lots of market segments! Lots of different types of clients. Hence, lots of different types of artists. There is nothing wrong with that. It is just up to each artist to decide what kind of segment they want to target: collectors of unique masterpieces, mass market print collectors, somewhere in between?
The key is to understand the type of artist that you are. You decide that! Not someone else. You decide that by the choices you make: where do you sell your art (online or a gallery?), what type of art do you sell (style, price, etc.), why do you sell art (do want to be famous/rich or get a moderate, consistent income now?), how do you sell your art (facebook and twitter may not be the answer), and to whom do you sell it (where do you want your art to ultimately hang? on a living room wall or a museum?). It’s the basics of marketing.
I don’t have a problem with Jim’s business model as long as he is being very clear with the artist about the type of client that he is dealing with on a particular project. In other words, I hope that when dealing original art you inform the artist about where the piece will hang and the ultimate sale price to the client. I hope that the artist can maintain some sort of control over what type of clients he/she wants to target and the price.
I am also curious, Jim, does your group do any “leasing” programs (rotating art) for big corporate clients? I have always understood that this is good way for companies to feature original art without having to own it and they get fresh art periodically (the artist gets lots of exposure). If you do offer this, could you explain how this business model would work for the client and the artist?
There is no wrong choice because “the people” need choices!
You bring up some great points, Rachel! I think you forgot to mention that some artists may not want to sell their work in any manner. I don’t think being an artist necessarily means that you’re required to be a professional in any capacity. Art has been an industry for centuries now, but not all art has to be part of the industry, if you ask me.
To be honest, how much information we give the artist about the client (and vice versa) is really a delicate issue. We’ve had cases of clients (or interior designers) that we’ve worked with go behind our backs and buy pieces directly from the artists after we’ve found and proposed art for the space. Usually artists get quite upset when they find out about this as they know it hurts our business and, in turn, can hurt their business. That sort of thing is pretty rare, especially since the prices we give clients aren’t any higher than what the artists charge retail anyway. On the other end, we have to be careful about the details we give the artist about a project sometimes, as some artists are quite eager to get their work chosen and can sometimes try to bypass us and go straight to the client to sell them on their work. Artists can be really persistent and clients tend to not want to be pestered by someone pushing their art. We do provide as much information as possible, usually, such as the nature of the client, the type of building or space the piece is being proposed for, photos of the location, etc. To avoid potential problems, we usually try to avoid giving information like our contacts at the client and the other artists we have on proposal for a project. Of course, once a client has decided on an artist we disclose a lot more information to both parties and we often have artists get really involved with the project and installation of their work.
We don’t typically offer rotating art options for clients as part of our business plan just yet, but as our business grows that might become an option for us. Naturally, how successful such an idea would be would depend on how willing the artists would be to loan out their work.
Glad to hear that you do your best to give information to the artist…Not surprised to hear that people go behind the scenes to make a deal (unfortunately).
Regarding the rotating art or leasing programs, I’ve never seen an artist “loan” art to these. But, rather, the art is usually purchased and added to a collection of art from variety of artists. Sometimes there is a theme involved…for example, women in new roles. However, sometimes it’s just a mix.
There may be other business models but I’m only familiar with the programs where the “art administrator/consultant” owns the art and then actually leases it out to a company with an agreement to install it, maintain it, rotate the exhibit, etc. for X amount of time. It’s the same type of agreement that large corporations use to lease copy machines, maintenance included as part of the package. The corporation always has an option to actually by the art (usually at a reduced rate). But, in this case they are not buying from the artist but the program administrator. Leasing programs provide certain advantages when it comes to corporate accounting, taxes, liability, etc. I do think that these type of programs come in and out of style with the corporate powers that be because sometimes they prefer the tax/accounting advantages of simply owning good art.
I am curious to know what other artists and Alyson Stanfield think of this type of program. Would you want your work sold/displayed this way? Does anyone have experience selling art this way? What are the positives and negatives for the artist in your opinion?