When is art too expensive or too cheap?

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When you buy something from an artistWhen you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object (or a video, or a book, or a story). You are buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul. A small piece of someone else’s life. Rebekah Joy Plett

That statement sums up so perfectly the true value of the something you just purchased from an artist.

Art means different things to different people. I believe that art should be available and accessible to everyone. Be it to view and savour in a moment, or buy to take home to enjoy everyday. To view and enjoy art is one of life’s special pleasures. Some people have easy access to it, others do not. Some art is free, some expensive and some not very expensive at all. I write that knowing that ‘expensive’ is a relative term. Relative by its perceived value and the amount of money an individual can, or is willing, to spend on something they admire and enjoy.

When you buy something from an artist

How much are you willing to spend on art? When you see something you love, something you connect with on an emotional level, be it a painting, an original print, sculpture or ceramic platter, how much do you perceive it’s value to be? Do you place a higher value on hand made and crafted art over something mass produced.

I think art is to be viewed and shared. I think art galleries and art spaces that sell art should also be open for people to browse, view and enjoy the art; without the guilt of feeling they have to make a purchase. I’m not a fan of galleries that aren’t inviting to the general public to browse and enjoy. Having said that, I love and respect that people buy art for their home, offices, as gifts, whatever. Especially when its my art. I will never tire of the privilege I feel when someone buys my art.

I have spent most of my adult life in the commercial world, where I have learned very clearly that something is worth what the customer will pay for it, generally based on the value they perceive in the item they are buying. Where a dollar value was assigned to everything, and where product margin and profit was essential.

In that world I also learned a very clear understanding of value and skill. When you buy art from an artist, you are not only buying the finished product, you are buying the years and blood sweat and tears that went into developing their skill, the materials and infrastructure to support the ongoing development of their skill and craft – as with any other business product. You are buying the risks they took to believe that could create something that others would enjoy and love; the failed attempts that work to create the pieces on display. You are buying courage and persistence and a little piece of the artists heart and soul.

The challenges with pricing my art

With my own work, generally speaking, producing a limited edition of printmaking prints will include costs in excess of $100 in materials, 10-80 hours of time to produce the edition, ongoing maintenance and running costs to run my studio and the 20+ years of personal and professional development it has taken to get me to this position to sell quality work worthy of a price tag.

Adding a price tag to my art is hard. I struggle with balancing the time, effort and cost gone into creating the piece against what I think people will pay for it; against what I am prepared to accept to never see the piece again.

Another part of the formula is adding commissions for galleries. If I sell work through a gallery, it is only fair that they earn a commission from selling my work. After all, they have provided the space and marketing to attract the customer. And then after factoring all of the ‘costs’ involved in creating the work, I also need to make some money – to pay the rent and put food on the table.

So the next time you view artwork, whether you like it, love it or hate it, take a moment to appreciate the effort that has gone into creating it. The cost for the venue from which you are viewing it. The skill, vulnerability, courage and heart that helped create the piece. You don’t have to like it, but please appreciate it.

So when do you think art is too expensive or too cheap?

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Showing 5 comments
  • Barbara Svoboda

    I would like to use your “when you buy” meme to print out a small copy and put on the back of my artwork that is for sale. I love what it says about us. I’m in the U.S. Is it okay to do this? I can attribute it to you.

    • Kim Herringe

      Hi Barbara – yes – please do use it!! I have no memory of where I came across that particular image. The words have been circulating for many many years. I don’t know their origin. But they need to be shared, far and wide. cheers, Kim x

  • Carol Jones

    May I have your permission to make a poster of this for our church art gallery. The art committee loves this.

    • Kim Herringe

      Hi Carol, I actually found that image on the internet several years ago. It is a statement by Rebekah Joy Plett and has been circulating for some time now. I think it needs to be spread far and wide. Kim x

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