Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pricing Art

It is just a little more than a month before my show at Goldesberry Gallery opens and I'm in my usual dilemma......how to price the pieces for the market and hopefully make enough to recover a significant part of my costs. I'm talking about the out-of-pocket costs of just putting together a show.....mats, frame, glazing, paper, ink. This doesn't even consider the cost of camera equipment, computers, printers. And it certainly doesn't consider the cost of the time in shooting the images or interpreting them in the darkroom or via Photoshop.

Here I am worrying about this and last night I read an article in the current issue of Lenswork magazine, Issue 62, about the pricing of photography. Brooks Jensen titled the article "Trolling for Fools" and his writing pen was triggered when he received a catalogue with a photograph for sale by a relatively unknown photographer for $3700. He wrote about how many different things that $3700 could buy and then asked how many people would be willing to give up all these other things in their life to buy a piece of art.

First of all some of the things that go into what a buyer is will to pay has to do with how "famous" the photographer is....as in how many books he has produced, how many workshops he has given, which galleries represent him. Buyers also seem to consider the "size" of the piece. Right now, they seem to like BIG photographs. And then somewhere in there is consideration of the image....does the buyer "love" it.

Although being in a gallery seems to legitimize the art for a potential buyer from what I've been able to observe about selling photography through a gallery there are a few issues to be considered. It is difficult to even get into a gallery if your work is not priced high enough for the gallery to make a profit. The gallery typically takes 50% and some are starting to take 60% of the sales price. They have to pay their rent and utilities and hopefully have enough to pay themselves so they are figuring out how many of these pieces they have to sell to breakeven plus enough to make a little profit. They want to represent higher priced works. Galleries are about marketing art.

I've always thought that up to about $400 you can sell to almost anyone who sometimes buys art and happens to like that piece. These buyers are not necessarily collectors and while they want to know that they are buying from a serious fine art photographer they aren't as concerned about the resume. Above $400.....now it becomes a much bigger financial decision and you have eliminated the casual art buyer to someone who is more focused on collecting photography. The buying pool just got significantly reduced.

I may have many, many people come to the exhibition. I may be told that this is wonderful work. I can pretend that art isn't a commodity but it is. I can price it anywhere but the bottom-line is what is the price that will entice someone who likes the work to pull out their wallet or credit card.

I'm still trying to figure out where the buying point is for this work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

intriguing question that. Art value is very subjective. I used to be able to play golf very well (when I was young) if I got a hole in one, like the pros I had to buy everyone drinks - but if I played 18 under for four rounds of great golf - I got a pat on the back not a million dollars - hmmmmm tough question.