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    • Every year or so, people wake up to the art world again when something silly sells for an outrageous price, like a banana duct-taped to a wall. Yes, Maurizio Cattelan's piece, Comedian, that a collector bought for $120,000 from a gallery in Miami Beach, has been eaten.

      When the buzz of this one dies down, artists will still be grappling with how to price their work. This includes photographers who sell their work as prints or through galleries. What is the formula you use or would recommend? For example:

      = Time to create the art (hourly or monthly wage)

      = Cost of materials (averaged for major pieces of equipment)

      = General overhead costs (averaged)

      = Agent percentage

      = Derivative works (potential)

      = Name recognition (could this be scored?)

      And then you have whatever people are willing to pay. Some schools of thought advise starting out with ridiculously high prices so your art will be perceived as having great value. I guess that's fine if you can afford it, lol. But working artists, and those starting out, need practical guidance. Thoughts?

      This article looks at pricing in-depth.

    • In addition to knowing how to price your art, an artist needs a mechanism to put their art up for sale.

      How and where will they will make their art available for sale? I've had conversations with folks who thought that just making their photographs available for sale online would sell their work and who became very frustrated that statistics showing the folks looked at the photographs didn't translate into sales.

      Is it possible to get the work shown in a gallery? How about a craft show? If a craft show, does the type of art the individual is trying to sell fit in with the type of crafts presented at that show?

      Selling art is hard.

    • I wonder...

      If I take materials worth $50, multiply that by 2 to make up for other expenses I might have on average, then spend an amount of time worth $100 to me to create something - and then sell my work for $200 - am I really an artist, or am I an artisan or craftsman?

      Looking at it the other way around: if we think of "artists", aren't those exactly the people whose work now sells for more than just its "fair price" as calculated via time and materials?

    • Most of the artists I’ve worked with (I was a gallery director) price their work according to the size of the work, not the cost of materials or amount of hours spent, since those calculations don’t necessarily make any sense to buyers. As an artist’s reputation grows, the prices go up. (This encourages buyers to always be on the lookout for new talent. Ha.)

      The banana thing is actually a whole different deal than a beautiful image. I think of it as there being two different “types” of art—there’s the art that skillfully replicates the seen world, and there’s art that is actually a metaphor. It is the metaphorical art that is so hard to price! What is the value of a metaphor??? Some metaphors are truly priceless, so they put the world of commodities on its head.

    • So true, @Denise. Most art galleries that deal in photography are very difficult to get into. There are a few photography-only galleries and those aren't any easier to crack. The art/craft/market shows aren't a bad way to go, and I'll usually see one or two photographers at the larger ones and they have elaborate booths with a lot of inventory. Pricing is all over the map. When you have the likes of NatGeo selling prints through at considerable discounts, it's difficult to compete. I have had two photos there since 2006 and probably have a total of $50 in royalties, lol. A 24x18" wood framed and matted print is on sale from $247.99 to $123.99 right now.

    • I think you've hit the crux of it, @Factotum. This always seems to put art out of the reaches of working-class people. I'd love to spend even $5,000 on art and sculpture, but I've yet to have that luxury as there are always other budget priorities. I have often been envious of my friends' art collections. Sure, I have some nice, small pieces I've acquired through my travels, but these are sentimental and fall more into the crafty genre. "Art" has a mystique, and to my way of thinking, I'll know a piece is worthy of its price when I see it. The banana duct-tape lark is at the extreme end of the measuring stick, with, say, a Edvard Munch or Jackson Pollock at the other end. "The Scream" sold for $120 million.

    • Very interesting, @lidja, your experience is so vast! And it is funny how collectors will brag about how they found a new talent, when really, it was all about getting in at a low price followed by a promo blitz.

      I felt the banana piece was a compare-and-contrast statement on temporary vs. eternal. Have you ever tried to remove duct-tape? And we all know that once a banana turns, that's the end of it.

    • The banana duct-tape lark is at the extreme end of the measuring stick, with, say, a Edvard Munch or Jackson Pollock at the other end. "The Scream" sold for $120 million.

      Both are pretty absurd - but with the Munch painting, I can at least understand the general concept. There's a physical object that changes owner - and because it is a worldwide unique object, supply and demand can lead to a crazy sum being paid for it every once in a while. If someone has a gazillion bucks to throw around, why not pay part of it for something that no one else will be able to own?

      On the other hand, I don't know what exactly was even for sale during the banana-taped-to-the-wall stunt. The banana, even if not eaten, would have been gone in weeks. Duct tape, once peeled off of a wall, doesn't really work a second time either. The idea of taping a banana to a wall... is that really worth $120K, even if it comes with a document describing the idea as "original"?

      If it is, maybe I can interest someone in buying one of the following:
      - a cornichon screwed to a wall with a rusty Phillips head screw
      - a hard-boiled egg balanced on an opened bottle of Primitivo red wine
      - stripes of bacon hung from a silver candelabrum with only one candle burning

      All of these ideas I came up with myself. I promise I'll take less than 100 grand for either of them! :D