Feature: The Difficult Task of Pricing Art Work

Following NCM's recent panel discussion on  Art Markets and Art Collections (part of the The Exceptional Economy of the Arts' series), this month's feature focuses on the difficult subject of pricing artwork. While many parts of the creative industries benefit from an explicit price structure, artists are often in the dark about how to price their work or their time. Add to this a very opaque marketplace, where information on sales, prices and buyers are kept secret, and there is no wonder that this topic remains one of the most hotly discussed among our visual arts participants.

Knowing how much your practice costs you, as an artist, is important to plan your prices. While it is agreed that there is no formula for pricing art, prices are nevertheless dependent on a number of elements. Work-specific factors will indicate a level of price depending on the media, the size, the presentation and the volume of production. External factors such as the place where the work is shown and the type of clients buying the work will then influence the prices. Finally, the artist’s professional credentials such as education, exhibition history and track record of sales will help to drive prices up. If you are still quite puzzled as to how much you should charge, the best advice is to educate yourself. Look at how much similar work by professionals at the same level sells for. This might involve doing some research in galleries or at art fairs such as the Affordable Art Fair in March.

It is important that your prices are consistent across selling platforms, whether online, at a fair or in a gallery. Do consider your gallerist, agent or collectors when deciding to increase your prices. And make sure that you give yourself the best chances by promoting your work, whether you expect to sell your work in person or online.

If your work isn’t based on a product but on a project, you will need to give careful consideration to the use of your time as an artist. While some commissioners have set day rates, many will expect you to submit a budget without indication of what they expect to pay. You will need to calculate how much a day of your time should be. Remember that this price will need to cover both your time and a portion of your costs of working as an artist, such as your overheads (studio, etc.). A-n proposes a sample fee and day rates depending on experience and overheads. You can also listen to a fellow NCM participant, Alex Julyan, discussing on Artquest her experience of setting artist fees for projects. Congratulations to Alex, who recently won the Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellowship 2014!