The value of art work produced by an artist inexplicably goes up when they're dead. Well, I don't know about you, fellow artists, but I don't want to wait that long to support myself and keep painting! Today, I want to discuss the idea of how people value art and why artists price their pieces in such a way. Please weigh in on this discussion, I'd love to know your thoughts, and please supply any criticism constructively.
Value and price are linked in all areas of commerce. Value and price, supply and demand, quantity and quality. You don't usually have one without the other.
So in order to come up with a price, we need to know; how do people value art?
The short answer is, "blimey, f*cked if I know!" And if you've seen the high end art world documentary 'Blurred Lines', you'll realize that even the experts are totally making it up too.
I'm lucky enough to have very kind family and friends who are complimentary and encouraging about my artwork and have shown me kind opinions of others artwork. This makes it really hard to gauge if they see a true connection to the piece and actually see value in it. Stop being so nice people! We need constructive criticism, we need something real! It may not change anything we do, but it will help us artists gauge a more realistic opinion of our audience.
I think the most valuable commodity is time.
Time is the only resource you can never get back. You can dedicate it in different ways but you cannot get it back once it has been used.
So why is it, nobody looks at artwork and thinks, wow, that must have taken aaaaaages, it should be such and such price? I think the only time anyone thinks about how long a piece might have taken is when they see a basic line drawing by Picasso, which he probably did in 5 minutes, up for auction for millions. Cue disgruntled LIVING artists worldwide.
However, the commonly missed point is that it's not 5 minutes. It's a lifetimes culmination of trial and error leading to that piece. It's all the art that came before that one. The hours of developing and honing the skill or style. The time spent, not just on that piece, but on the craft. The blood sweat and tears that have lead to this pristine simple drawing. You wouldn't pay the same amount for a 5 year old's artwork compared to an artists work with years of experience in the same way you wouldn't pay an apprentice plumber the same rate as the experienced plumber.
Pricing artwork is tough.
How do you price something that you've dedicated a part of your soul to? I wonder how many artists can look at one of their paintings and remember their emotions or thought process they were having at the exact moment of that brush stroke? Sometimes I'll look at one of my paintings and I can even smell the way my studio smelled at the time, a waft of hot toast or the sap rising in the trees in spring.
My hubby has a job that pays our bills and keeps us in the lifestyle we're accustomed to, thank god! He stains and refinishes log homes and timber frame exteriors. Just last fall, he and a crew of 2 other hard working guys stained a log home. It needed 2 coats of stain. They all worked for 12 hours a day for 2 days and it cost the home owner just under $8000. Wow! $8000!
I've been working on a commission for 6 months. I can't work on it full time everyday as I also have a day job (because I've never sold a painting for $8000!). I have certainly put in hundreds of hours after work, on weekends and vacation days. When I'm finished, the commission bill, as agreed by the client, will be just over $2500. 6 months people! And believe me, that price was debated; I assume the frame is included as well as delivery and shipping, etc? Nope, nope, nope.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not debating home maintenance, I'm debating perspective. After all, the consequences could be dire if you don't upkeep your home properly. But now we get to the crux of the matter.
Why don't people value art in a similar way and ultimately cough up for it in the end? Now that question is worth debating!
Could it be the idea that art is easy? That art is not essential? The cost of materials are relatively cheap? There are no dangers involved like pulling off an acrobatic manoeuvre from 4 flights of scaffolding to reach that pain in the ar*e corner? There's a lot of 'instant' art distorting the perception of how a piece is produced?
What do you think about all this? Tell me! I need to know!
It's time for artists everywhere to own it. Own your prices. Value your own art so that others will see the value in it too. Explain the series of events that got you to this place. I've set my prices and I stand by them and believe me, in a few years time when I've dedicated and culminated even more time to my craft, my prices will reflect it and yours should too. We are professionals and it's time we are truly valued!