Updated: Sep 19
Pricing your artwork appropriately can be both extremely difficult and challenging for many artists. We dive into the ways you can begin to look at your pricing and work out what’s best for you.
Maintaining a consistent price structure across your art and throughout all your artworks regardless of whether you are selling through a gallery, a third party or your own studio is essential. If a collector buys an artwork through a gallery and then finds your artwork available somewhere else at half the price its needless to say that they will be pretty upset and it will put them off buying more of your artworks in the future. Similarly if you sell an artwork to a collector for 100,000 HKD and then sell you next original at 3,000 HKD that first collector might feel deceived. It is essential that artists maintain a clear, concise and consistent price structure. It will allow you to grow but also to develop a loyalty with your customer base. In the long term galleries and curators will also be more likely to work with you.
Where to Start
In order to price artwork appropriately it’s important to understand at what point your art career is and how your peers are pricing. Generally as an emerging or grassroots artist you should probably be charging between 2000 – 10,000 HKD per artwork. For a mid-career artist you will probably be looking to sell artworks from 10,000 – 50,000 HKD. For established artists and up you are probably looking to price from around 50,000 HKD and up. We should note that those price points are extremely rough and should by no means be stuck to but our hope is it gives you a rough idea of a ballpark price structure. There are of course many different factors that affect an artworks value so you may decide to price differently but the above hopefully gives you a starting point to consider.
How to Calculate Your Artwork Price
A good way to calculate your prices is to work out your price per square inch. This is a formula used by many artists all over the world. Start by calculating your time spent and your hourly rate. This is largely subjective but think how long it takes you to produce a 10 x 10 inch artwork and you will know roughly how much in terms of paid hours you need to price for 100 square inches. Say for example your hourly rate you set for yourself is 100 HKD and the artwork took 20 hours and the size was 100 square inches then you know that you need to price 2000 HKD for a 10 x 10 inch artwork just to pay for your time. Now add on your material and framing cost. Lets say your materials cost 1000 HKD and your frame costs 1000 HKD then your total price for the artwork is now 4000 HKD. Now double this price and that will give you your market price, in this case 8000 HKD. This doubling allows for gallery commission and other expenses. If you undercut a gallery, curator or collector it can seriously damage your reputation so be mindful of maintaining your price structure. Organising exhibitions and promoting artists and artworks takes time and galleries should be paid. Similarly if you organise your own exhibition and do all the promotional work you should equally be paid to cover all the time spent organising and curating etc so its important to maintain the doubling in the price structure. In the example above 8000 HKD is the price of a 100 square inch painting so the artist’s price calculation is 80 HKD per square inch. For your artworks in the future simply measure the length x width x square inch value (in this case 80HKD) to get your artwork price.
When producing larger work you can choose to bring the value down a little to make higher value art more attractive to buyers but this is up to the individual artist. Similarly with smaller work you may wish to bring the value up a little to compensate for the time spent in-between paintings.
Increasing Your Pricing Over Time
It’s important for an artist to increase their prices over time. When you have a particularly good sales year you can choose to increase your artwork prices by about 10 – 20%. Again this is completely subjective but anything significantly higher runs the risk of scaring away potential new buyers and may alienate your collector base. If the market is slowing then it’s best to maintain your prices as they are until sales pick up again.
Photograph: HKARTS Affordable Art Fair 2021. Photo courtesy Kyra Campbell Photography.
Pricing Art Prints
When starting out as an artist prints can be a great way to bring in additional income especially if your original work takes a long time to produce and you don’t have a strong collector base. It’s important to look at the local market to see what prices other people are selling art prints at. You should note that prices will vary greatly depending on the artist but also on whether the print is limited or open and signed or unsigned. A version of the formula mentioned above can be applied to also work out your print prices. Similar to pricing originals its important to maintain a consistent price structure for all your prints. When transitioning to galleries its important to maintain your prices across all your platforms. If a gallery increases your artwork price then it should be increased across all platforms. If you have one price for local markets and then another price for your gallery it is less likely that galleries in the future will want to work with you so try to think both carefully and fairly.
Photograph: HKARTS Exhibition. Photo courtesy Kyra Campbell Photography.
Control Your Own Prices
At the end of the day you know your market best. There are many curators, consultants and galleries who will try to change your prices. Listen to them and take their advice but end of the day it’s up to you. Be mindful of your market and the long term impact of how your price is set. Pricing should always ultimately be your decision.