July 4, 2010

price points

Ad Parnassum
Paul Klee, 1932, oil on canvas, 39" x 49"

I've been struggling lately with the recent decision to raise prices on my artwork. There were three justifications for doing so: (a) they were underpriced, (b) I'm getting better at what I do (!) and (c) those who collect my work or who have purchased my work in the past deserve to see the value of their investments increase now that the stagnant economic situation of the past couple of years has eased somewhat. While playing this out in my head it occurred to me that (c) represents something of a turning point in my career -- i.e. thinking about the people who like my work as much as my own struggling economic situation. I, too, have a small collection of original art and there's no question that they are among my most important possessions. As a minimalist by nature who doesn't collect things that says a lot!

On the other hand, when discussing this with a dealer, I decided not to raise the prices on my smallest pieces more than a tiny bit because
I do like the idea of the small ones being really affordable for people who don’t normally buy art -- but might get hooked if they give it a try!"

I'm reading a book right now called My Love Affair With Modern Art by legendary Chicago curator and gallerist Katharine Kuh, who showed and curated many of the mid-century greats, like one of my own favourites, Paul Klee. I love this quote: "Prices, then as now, are interesting social barometers having nothing to do with the quality or staying power of art, but as cultural guideposts they provide valuable telescopic information. And when, to be sure, has art not performed as a reliable adjunct to history?"

When I see what prices trendy artists, whose work reflects current obsessions, command for their work I have to agree. Wish I could fast forward a hundred years and see what niche they occupy in the art marketplace then!


Kathryn Grace said...

Love all your reasons for raising your prices, especially the one that considers the collectors' investments. I also appreciate your keeping the small pieces in a range that those of us who may never have the means to acquire Art may enjoy pieces that delight us, that feed our souls and nourish our minds.

andrea said...

Ellen: Just read the blog post and will listen to the NPR spot later. I also believe that work should be priced by size, but arriving at the right price is the crux of the biscuit!

WW: Thanks, Chris. Keeping it small keeps it affordable for sure. I have these BIG ideas, though. And I appreciate your support, believe me!

Kathryn: It's a real shame that art simply has to cost as much as it does to make it worthwhile for the artist to produce it. That said, I wonder how many people would forego a year of cinema tickets or CDs just to own a piece of art they really love. The art is the thing that lasts and is an object to treasure, especially in this age of the download! :) Art I really love (like the image above) is something I can look at and have an emotional response to again and again.

mrwriteon said...

OK -- I'm here. Now what? Just kidding. Looking good my lovely friend.And raise your prices as high as you dare. Lack of self-confidence or shyness or some such bullshit has always led me to undercut myself in my writing charges, and by this point I kind of resent my wimpiness. Go for the gusto. You have the talent, so why not?

Hayden said...

I like your attitude towards rising prices while keeping the small ones less expensive. I'm of two minds about it all. On one hand I figure you should get as much as you can. On the other, I know you're absolutely right about getting people started. I started back in college - I turned one 10 week mandatory overtime period into an art-buying binge - and have continued by fits and starts all of my life. People are often astonished that I do - I'm not wealthy by any means - but I like to be surrounded by visuals that make me happy. I think more people would do it if they just tried it and realized how much pleasure it gives them. (Recently a very comfortably set relative visited and really looked things over thoroughly, asked a lot of questions. Then she finally asked "Did you buy these in a gallery?" and I realized that, to her, a gallery wasn't a place she even considered entering. Sad.)