Art market, buyers, offer and demand

Avoid underselling or setting unreasonable high artwork prices

Setting the right price for your art work is not always as easy as just deciding on a number. There are some fundamental principles to follow, to set a base price. This will need to be adjusted further though to ensure that the final product and its associated cost is appealing to customers. Knowing your target audience and understanding the rules of offer and demand are probably as important as knowing how to use your brush and paint effectively.

Research market and audience

When making an art piece with the intention of selling it, you should instantly accept that there is an interaction with your target audience in terms of pricing. Depending on who you aim to sell to, you need to gauge how much they are willing to pay. If your target audience is your friends, then maybe they are keen to support you but their budget is very limited; your price cannot be extremely high even if that means you marginally make any profit. If your target audience is seasoned New York and London art collectors, then surely they can spend a bit more on purchasing your art, giving you bigger flexibility on setting a higher price. Obviously, there are many stages in between; the principle though remains the same.

It can sometimes be difficult to predict who is going to be interested in your work (your ability to predict probably depends on experience and trial and error in the market). However, you should always keep the above in mind, especially when preparing for an exhibition or choosing an online platform for selling your work. Always think what the audience is likely to be (if selling your work on an arts and crafts market for example, where all items cost from £5 to £100, selling your work for £5000 is unlikely) and adjust your expectations accordingly. If you think the audience attracted to a specific event is not the right one for your art, probably you need to consider going to a different event (or choosing an alternative platform etc)

How buyers and creators value the work

The value and the price of an artwork are two completely different things and depend on many factors. Good quality artwork not always sells for high prices and vice versa, less interesting work sometimes manages to get a decent sum (reasons can vary from lack of an artistically educated audience, lack of promotion, different socioeconomic values etc). Remember that the buyers are the ones to pay the price, so you (or your agent, college, marketer etc) need to convince them that your work is worth the investment (by offering exceptional quality, technique, uniqueness, groundbreaking approach to a topic and so on).

In order to distinct between how buyers and creators value the artwork, think the over-simplified analogy of your bond with your very first painting. That might be of extremely high value to you, but for potential buyers that is probably of less significance; thus they are willing to spend less on it (unless you are a very established and famous artist by now!). It is clear that buyers and creators often value an art piece based on different criteria.

If your aim is to sell, you need to think about how your potential buyers value your paintings and not how emotionally attached you are to your work (unless this emotional bond can be demonstrated as an asset/part of the work). Your reputation in the sector is a critical aspect here. The more exposure, connections and recommendations you have (provided your artwork is of a specific quality standard anyway), people will be more willing to spend larger amounts on your art.

Offer and demand

One of the major aspects of any trading business is offer and demand; selling art, follows the same rules. If the type and style of paintings you make is something very common then you are competing in a saturated market (the offer is high) and you really need to make an effort to stand out of the crowd to be able to sell at a decent rate. Good quality, unique style and promotion are some considerations.

On the other hand if you manage to make something unique, and convince the audience that the value of your art work is high, then you are a pioneer and have opportunities to sell for good prices. In this case the offer is low (only you) and demand is high (people like your work and are willing to pay for it).

So what is the magic pricing algorithm?

It might be tempting to just set a piece for your first artworks, just to get you started. However, selling successfully requires a balance of good quality and reasonable prices. In that direction an organised pricing strategy would be helpful. The paragraphs above, along with the first article of this series, can give you an indicative list of things you need to consider. Use this as a guide; it is in no way an exhaustive study on the factors that might be affecting the sell-ability and prices of art. The reality is that there is no set algorithm (at least I am not aware of it…) for adjusting your artwork price. Some experimentation and judgement would be needed.

Of course you are free to set whatever price you think fair for your work, and especially if making sales is not of major concern then priorities might change. In that case, weighting emotional attachment and personal value against more frequent transactions might be a more sensible, straightforward and effective way of keeping you satisfied.

Conclusion

Although it is expected that everyone has their own approach, my view is that an artist should not under sell unless they want to enter the market, and they can risk over pricing only if they can afford selling less frequently. How do you usually approach the topic of pricing your work?

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