The Pricing Game and How It Is Played

Many Galleries with a physical address really do work hard at generating sales for their artists and for themselves.

Some Online Galleries  link to Physical Galleries and really do work hard at generating sales for their artists and for themselves.

Many Artists who operate their own Online Gallery really work ‘very’ hard at generating sales for themselves.

Now, Let’s take a look at how each determines their ‘Pricing Policies’

Physical galleries charge a 50% commission for two dimensional art (paintings). they charge 30% to 40% for three dimensional art and photographs. This is a fairly standard commission rate across the board. When a gallery takes on an artist they price for profit. Wall space and floor space is real-estate. Prices have to pay for their space and generate income for the artist and the gallery! Worth is determined by how many works are selling. Prices are adjusted yearly in an upward direction if sales are consistent … artists are dropped if their sales do not generate profit. It’s a fair market plan that has a bottom line: No sales means no commission!

The Pricing Game For the Physical Gallery is a real game with rules and procedures. To be a player you have to play by the rules and there will be no whimpering and whining if you feel you are losing as the artist involved. Here are the basic rules of engagement that the artist must comply to if they are to be represented by a physical gallery as well as the rules for clients purchasing a piece of art.

  • A consistent ‘style’ in an artists work sells better than a ‘style’ that is developing or changing. The artist’s work must be recognizable as their own or of a popular genre.
  • Standard sizes are easier to price and frame. Most pricing is calculated by the square inch which makes ‘size’ and not ‘preference’ the bottom line for worth. The Mona Lisa is 30 in. by 20 in. An expensive piece of real-estate even if it’s just a little piece of property. The Game runs smoothly when pricing has no sentiment or preference .. just size.
  • Established ‘money makers’ rarely  sell studies, sketches, pencil drawings, or rough drafts of their work while they are alive. Prices usually start at at $300 for an 8 in. by 10 in. painting at an established mid to high end physical gallery. To sell at anything lower than $300 will not cover the cost of the ‘real-estate’ factor
  • Lots to look at and lots to choose from. Inventory needs storage and storage is real-estate,which has to be paid for. A typical physical gallery will have a few paintings on display for each artist they are representing and the back room will carry the bulk of the inventory. They also will have a virtual gallery that can display their artists right in the physical gallery if additional work is to be seen that they don’t have on hand.
  • The most important rule in the price game is that the gallery representatives are the rule setters and the major players. Sales are generated by their knowledge and expertise. Consumers listen to the sales representative and in most cases are directed to a choice that will fit their understanding of what is good and fine in the work they purchase. It is easier to trust someone else when purchasing art than to trust yourself, given most people’s limited knowledge on the subject of art. After all, that is why you visit several physical galleries … to find someone you can trust and let them lead you to a safe and satisfying purchase.

Older established artists are easier to sell than mid career or new artists and the prices are always higher for the former. It’s a simple fact and rule of marketing; Cut off the supply and the demand is greater …  and the price escalates. Canadian painter, Emily Carr died in 1945. Heffel’s Online Auction  sold Carr’s, “The Crazy Stair” (the Crooked Staircase)  43 3/8 x 26in circa 1928 – 30,  for $3,393,000. I know that Emily got very little per square inch for her efforts 84 years ago. This is the Hidden Rule – The art that is rejected becomes the cornerstone of commerce. 

The Pricing Game For Online ‘Virtual’ Galleries  is taking shape and in some cases is taking it’s lion’s share and establishing  a set of ‘new rules’. One example is that it is not wise to charge less for art sold online than for what it would be sold for in a physical gallery. That would be against the ‘new rules’ that are being established worldwide with the advances in technology and consumer confidence for online art sales. Let’s take a look at some of the new rules.

  • Original and creative art is allowed to be represented by the online market. The old rule of ‘conformity and ‘sellable style’ is not as important as personal  artistic growth and experimentation beyond the borders of conformity. That is the new horizon that is in front of us as creative people. Of course you will find the same old, same old on many sites, as is the case in physical galleries also. The potential of online art sales is definitely being carefully considered by those adhering to the old rules.
  • The guiding rule of online success is ‘Educate, Educate. and Educate.  Answering the questions that clients need answering is the single most important function of an online gallery. Most of the answers should be provided within the online gallery setting with clear visuals, up front pricing, and a substantial amount of text that addresses the issues at hand when purchasing online. Videos of the artwork and the artist at work build the client / artist relationship,  providing a personal interest in the  material that is being presented. Viewing countless ‘stills of paintings’ is not a pleasant or productive experience. The average time spent looking at a piece of art is 6 seconds in an art gallery. Knowing where the art has come from and understanding what the artist is presenting will encourage more looking instead of clicking to the next image.
  • The virtual gallery is a self directed tour. Relax and enjoy the the artwork stress free, with no interuptions or interference. See what the artist sees. Choose your favorites and feel some wonder. It’s art. Its meant to be enjoyed.
  • Online art sales must be delivered on time, with return options and insurance in place.  Shipping should be free. The final service rule is the availability of personal contact with the artist or their representative.
  •  Artists are allowed to value and sell their own work. This is actually an old rule that is coming back as Claude Monet,1840-1926,  prime mover of the Impressionists, sold out of his home when few dealers would represent him. I believe he would have had a virtual gallery that would have provided him with a steady income from painting, especially during his mid-career when he sold paintings to buy more materials.
  • The ‘Hype of Fame’ and the ‘Hall of Shame’ have no place in the ‘Virtual Gallery’. We are here to create art, sell it. and create some more -not to play the get rich and famous game. ‘Unknowing experts’ have invariably chosen the wrong horse to win in the ‘Gallery Game’. Auction houses are full of ‘rejected cornerstones’ that didn’t suit popular taste and now are selling in the millions. Worldwide auction sales are now in the ‘Billions” Steady income … steady work … steady progress…this is what we as committed artists are looking for and this is the rule of industry that we are starting to live by.

Responsibility Rule – Support an artist and feed a culture. Art reflects change. Art develops culture. Art educates. Art inspires ingenuity and invention. Art moves us inside and out. Don’t ‘rule’ out art from your life … bring it into your home and let it do all of the above and more.

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