by Maureen Fitzmahan

Did you have trouble pricing your art work for our Gallery Show in January in Oakland? I did.

There is a difference between the value of an art piece and what price it will sell for.  The value of your art is made up of two things: 1. how you value your art and 2. how the market values your art.

For example, I am showing two or three of my very favorite photographs.  I have spent most of my adult life learning the art of photography.  I spent a great deal of money on the camera, lens, printer, paper, matting, frames, and the glass I use.  I spent hours and hours making these photos – from taking and choosing the photo to many more hours of developing and printing until I came up with the photo I think is best. More importantly, I LIKE these photos.  I am attached and think they are the best pieces I have ever made.  I am happy to say, that you, my fellow Art Junketeers like my work, too.  So, when I price my work for strangers, I want to say, “This is my very precious work!” Unfortunately, this may not be what my work will be priced on the market.

Maureen Fitzmahan-On the Shoulders of Giants

The price of your piece is dependent on several factors. A photo is ‘worth’ (in money, only) as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

  1. Fame! Have you established a following, a reputation in the art world?  Personally, I think some of Picasso’s work is not that good.  But, a Picasso painting will sell at Christie’s Auction House for millions of dollars.

    Leonardo da Vinci. Salvator Mundi. c.1500. Sold in 2017 for $450.3 million.
  2. Who owned your work previously?  Does it have a history?  Recently da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million!  Woah!!!  That is the most money ever spent on an art piece! It sold for that extravagant amount of money despite the fact that the painting is described as “a painting credited to Leonardo da Vinci.”  It may not have been painted by da Vinici, or only part of it was.  And the painting is not perfect…“the picture has suffered”… the painting was “aggressively over cleaned,” resulting in abrasion of the whole surface, “especially in the face and hair of Christ.” BUT there are only 20 da Vinci paintings known to exist. And, this is the only da Vinci painting owned by a private individual. All other da Vinci’s are housed in public museums.  It is the first discovery of a painting by da Vinci since 1909. Imagine owning the only da Vinci!  In your own home.  If you already have gazillions of dollars , why not spend some small amount of that on the only da Vinci!
  3. ARCHIVAL: Did you use archival materials? Unfortunately, this is not a topic we have covered at the Art Junket.  We wanted to encourage you to be free and experimental with your art.  What materials you use and how long your art lasts, need not concern you.  You are learning, expressing yourself, finding joy in the work.  However, if we sell our art, we owe the buyers the information to let them know if they are buying a piece of work that will last a few years or decades. Will your art piece physically survive the test of time?  Is it archival? Did you use materials that will last. These are some factors you should consider. (artistsnetwork)
    1. Do you want your work to be disposable or enduring?For some artists the process is more important than longevity. Cost is also an important factor.
    2. Many of your mixed-media works may incorporate materials that aren’t archival, such as cardboard, old paints, acidic glues, and collage paper. Are you using your materials properly? Painting on an improperly prepared surface can result in an unstable support, leading to paint flaking. Proper technique will contribute to a more stable and long-lasting artwork.
  4. RARE: Is Your art piece the one and only piece like it? Or, is it one of 6 you plan to make?
  5. FORMULA: If you are new to the art market, someone came up with this formula. Pay yourself a reasonable hourly wage, add the cost of materials and make that your asking price. For example, if materials cost $50, you take 20 hours to make the art, and you pay yourself $20 an hour to make it, then you price the art at $450 ($20 X 20 hours + $50 cost of materials)(Art business).  If, like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time making your art, you may need to cut back those hours or pay yourself less an hour.

So, what does all this mean?

Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico 1941.jpg
Ansel Adams. Moonrise, Hernandez. 1941.  In 1996, Adams biographer Mary Alinder estimated that 1,300 prints of Moonrise, Hernandez had been made over 40 years — often produced by Adams whenever an order for a copy came in, most of them done in the 1960s and ‘70s — worth a cumulative $25 million. Sotheby’s New York includes a print of Moonrise in its photo sale on Oct. 5, 2011, printed in the late 1960s or even 1970 at what is called a “mural size” (30 x 40 in.), estimated at $300,000-$500,000.
  1. First, don’t be disappointed if your work does not sell. You and your art are very valuable.  Keep on showing your work.  Don’t be discouraged. Ansel Adams sold his first photo for $100.  Today, that print sells for a million dollars. Of course, he’s dead. And very famous!
  2. Second, it is OK if you don’t really want to sell your art piece. So, price your painting at any amount you want. Or, trade your art to me for one of my photographs.  I’d love to trade! I think your art is incomparable and would love to put it on my wall. (That is how the great artists of the f/64 photo group and the artists of the Paris cafes first started. If no one will buy your art, trade with your fellow artists.)
  3. Third, if you really want to sell your work, price it at an affordable price. Think of it this way – you are providing a piece of art to someone and that will bring them great joy to have a piece of your art in their house. And, you will have sold your first piece of art! Bragging rights!