The current art market can sometimes be tricky. Setting prices for artwork is a challenging task. On the one hand, internationally renowned artists such as Jeff Koons, Damian Hirst, and Banksy are breaking auction records each week. On the other hand, the majority of artists may not have as much name recognition and sell their artworks via galleries or with platforms such as Singulart. These artists must set the appropriate price for their own work.
In an effort to help you answer the question of artwork pricing, we at Singular have put together 5 tips for our artists to help them set the best price.
1/ Establish your market: Take a look at the trends on the global market
To set the price of your artwork, it is crucial to understand that the evaluation of your work is akin to any other value: it is neither subjective, neither objective nor arbitrary. The evaluation of your artwork is based on a set of time-based criteria, like supply and demand. Your artwork evaluation will be influenced by trends.
Therefore, it is crucial for you to stay up to date on the international contemporary art market by reading topical news, knowing the important international actors, looking at the artists presented by contemporary art fairs, and the artworks selected by national art centers. Do not only look at famous international artists! Where are the galleries in your area? Which artists are exhibiting in those galleries? What are these artists creating and at what price are they selling their artworks? This should give you a global perspective of the trends and will help you find “your” market.
Our advice to get started:
Go to the nearest contemporary art fair and find artworks that are in a similar style to your work. Look at their prices and investigate collector interest. Do this with several pieces similar style to yours: this will help you establish a price range for your artwork. For example, you could find that an abstract piece of 100 x 100 cm (39 x 39 inches) sells for between $1,000 and $4,000. To specify your price range, you would need to find the CV/resume of the artist, but we will come back to that later!
Visiting a fair can help you know when to raise the prices of your artwork. If you notice during a fair that abstract pieces are the most popular and successful, perhaps it’s time to increase the prices of your abstract paintings. However, if there are no galleries presenting minimalistic art that year, then it is probably not the right moment for you to raise your prices on those types of works.
2/ Pay attention to your experience and compare yourself
Once you have studied what is being sold and at their price range, you can compare yourself to other artists and define your market. First, identify a large group of artists that you can compare yourself to.
What is your style: street art, figurative, abstract, and in that case, which kind of abstract art? From the artists you identified, which one is closest to you artistically?
Next, compare your experience and career: which art schools do these artists come from? Did they attend a residency with a similar reputation as yours?
Both the career and exposure of an artist are crucial criteria when it comes to defining the value of their work. Based on your CV/resume, it is important to establish which category you fit in best as an artist: have you already been exhibited regionally, nationally, or internationally? Have you ever had a solo exhibition in an art gallery with a catalog edition or a monograph?
The answers to these questions will help you set a more precise price range for your work, a price that is based on the art market and on the current valuation of works by similar artists.
Our advice for getting started: Let’s take the example of the fair in your area. Let’s assume that you spotted two artists with similar artworks to yours.
- The first artist who was selling similar artwork at $4,000 participated in Art Elysées last year. You, however, have never exhibited your work at any art fairs in your area. Additionally, Le Quotidien de L’Art wrote a small article about one of the artist’s solo exhibitions, but you have yet to have an article published about your work in a similar caliber publication.
- The second artist who was selling similar artwork at $1,000 has never had a solo exhibition in an art gallery, whereas you have already done three. The same artist has never been selected for an art residency, meanwhile, you spent three months in an art residency in Florence, Italy last year.
From these findings, you can conclude that your price range should be set between $2,000 and $3,000.
3/ Make Your Prices Coherent
- Be logical
Each of your artworks is personal, so it might be difficult to remain objective. However, it is essential to not confuse emotional value with financial value. If one of your artworks is more meaningful to you than others, that should not impact the price. You risk losing a collector if they do not think your prices are coherent.
- The role of style in pricing
You’ll find that style greatly impacts pricing. You may have a wide range of prices if your work covers very different styles and covers drastically different topics. Be sure to study art market trends, as discussed in point 1, in order to understand the financial value of your work. For example, Pop Art is more popular and therefore is typically more expensive more than classical landscape paintings.
You should aim to distinguish yourself with one particular style. It will be difficult to increase the value of your work if you experiment with many styles.
- The technique and dimensions
Some techniques are seen as more valuable than others and therefore are sold at a higher price. An oil painting requires more time and technical skills than a watercolor painting or an acrylic painting. An artwork that has more detail and requires more research can justify a higher price for an artist than a more simple piece. The dimensions of a piece should also be taken into consideration: a bigger artwork means more time spent working, more materials, and hence, it has a greater market value.
Four methods can be used: The square inch x dollar amount, the hourly rate, the linear inch pricing and the professional quotation indicator.
° The square inch x dollar amount formula:
Some artists establish their artworks’ prices by using the method of square inches multiplied by a set dollar amount. To get the square inches of your painting, multiply the width of the work by the length. Then, multiply this number by a dollar amount that makes sense based upon your reputation and credentials. Round to the nearest hundred before adding double the cost of your materials and add it to the square inch dollar amount. This method can be efficient if you take all of the elements mentioned above to calculate the monetary value of your point and if you adjust it to your artwork.
For example: For a painting with a width of 18 inches, a length of 24 inches, and a square inch value of $4 and a material cost of $100, calculate it the following way: 18×24= 432 square inches, and then 432×4= $1,728, rounded to the nearest hundred at $1,700. Add double the material costs, $100×2= $200, for a total of $1,700+$200= $1,900. Therefore, your artwork will be priced at $1,900.
° The hourly rate for your artwork:
Young artists who are still working on building their professional career and have not yet had the opportunity to exhibit their artworks in an art gallery or at an art fair can calculate their hourly rate to set their prices. For example:
- Define your hourly salary ($20/hour for a young artist)
- Multiply that by the number of hours you have spent working on a piece
- Take the cost of supplies (canvas, paint., etc.) and double it, then add that amount to your calculated hours.
You would calculate it as follows: Hours spent x $20 +2 x (cost of supplies)
For example: You spent 8 hours on your canvas and the cost of material is estimated at $150. To calculate an appropriate cost, you can put the formula together: 8×20+150×2= $460. As we can see here, the cost of that painting should be set at $460.
° The linear inch pricing
If you have paintings of many different sizes, it might be easier to use linear inch pricing rather than square inch pricing. In this method, use linear inches rather than square inches.
For example: for a 4×4 inch painting at $20 per linear inch you calculate it as: 4+4= 8 linear inches. 8 linear inches x $20 = $160.
° The professional quotation indicator:
There are several rating websites that help artists define their art market valuation by attributing a “quotation indicator.” Singulart met with I-CAC, a French reference website that specializes in art valuation, to find out how their expert team analyzes artists work.
Read our article to know more about it. [French version only]
4/ Look ahead: How and in what circumstances can you raise your prices?
Setting the appropriate price that is aligned with the art market for your artworks will enable you to establish a long-term career! Do not race through things. It is always better to start with modest prices that sell and feel the pride that comes with getting to raise your prices based on the market. That way, you will prove the value of your work.
Here are some appropriate circumstances for raising your prices:
- You have participated in a prestigious residency (read our article about Artists residencies).
- You have exhibited your artworks in an international art fair such as Volta Miami, Art Karlsruhe, Art Paris…(read our article about the future contemporary art fairs).
- An article has been written about your artwork in an art magazine
- You were selected for a collaboration with a prestigious brand (read our article on artistic collaborations).
- You have sold multiple pieces for several consecutive months; you sell faster than you create: there is market tension. Therefore, you can increase prices. For this information, Singulart helps you by providing you with your data.
How much should you raise your prices?
It’s better to increase your prices by 10% or 15% each year than to increase your prices once by 30%.
By increasing your prices too fast, you risk losing sales. Collectors have more faith in an artist’s valuation that increases slowly but in connection with their career rather than an artist’s valuation increasing quickly and arbitrarily.
Another danger of increasing your prices too quickly is that if you don’t sell your artwork, you will not have the flexibility to lower your prices again. Discounting your prices is never a good sign for the market.
At Singulart, we respect your market valuation but we also want to help you develop it. If you would like to increase your prices, we will help you communicate eloquently with your collectors to justify your price increase. Do not hesitate to contact your Artist Liaison for personalized guidance.
5/ The golden rule: a consistent market price
The golden rule is to have a consistent price for all your piece. With the art market being global and digital, a collector can discover the price of a sold artwork on the other side of the world in just a few clicks. If they find different prices for your work, you will lose credibility.
At Singulart, occassionally an artists can forget to update their prices on lesser used platform. Our collectors can spot these inconsistencies and it is very difficult to prove that the price raise was justified. Especially in a negotiation context, it is difficult to argue any price difference. Avoid complicated situations like these by updating your artwork prices on time!
Finally, there are 4 things to keep in mind:
- Maintain the same price range: do not dillute your valuation with different prices
- Compare your valuation with similar artists
- If you raise your prices, comprehensive communication is key with your collectors
- Be careful with auctions on the primary market: if you choose to participate in an auction, it’s essential to set a reserve price with the auctioneer. We advise that you do not go below 35% of your gallery price. Contact your Artist Liasion if you have any doubts!
- The artwork hanging on your collectors walls are your best ambassadors!
Do not undermine yourself and remain constant with your prices.