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Why is Art So Expensive Anyway?

[BLOG POST 1/21/24] Recently I've been rethinking the prices for my paintings and trying to figure out if I could sell them for less. That got me thinking about why art prices can be so high and thought you might like to know why too.

First, there are hard costs of making art:

  • Studio costs including light, heat, rent, utilities, insurance, cleaning materials, trash removal, etc.

  • Art materials (canvas, easels, paints, paper, wax, pastels, brushes, etc). If you've ever wandered through an art supply store you know quality art supplies are not cheap.

  • Storing art takes up space and to protect the frames and glass that often means they need to be carefully wrapped or boxed and labeled.

  • Framing including mats, glass, frame, wire, spacers, and finishing touches to the construction to meet show or gallery requirements.

Second there are human costs of making art:

  • Artists are people too and they need to eat, live in a home, see doctors, have reliable transportation, etc.

  • Creating art takes time–some of the time is quiet, thinking, researching, trying out ideas, playing to get creative juices flowing. Other chunks of time are spent in preparing the studio for the new piece (set up easels, lighting, hiring models, finding props, etc). And then there is the time devoted to creating the piece--painting, sculpting, photographing, etc.

  • Education is important too, after all none of us know everything, so in-person classes, online courses, business training, etc. are all important.

Third there are promotional costs for art:

  • Most shows require the artist pay to submit art to be considered for the show. Those fees range from $15 to $50 or more, oftentimes that fee is per painting.

  • Most art organizations require membership fees in addition to any fees to submit paintings to shows they host. Again the range is wide starting at $20/year to $200 or more.

  • Social media posts are free but require time by the artist to create the post and make it eye catching to compete for attention. Plus most social media platforms want you to buy ads or they bury your posts.

  • If your artwork is selected for a show you have the additional cost of getting your artwork to the show by either shipping or delivering it in person. Either way there are costs. And if the piece doesn't sell you are responsible for paying to have it returned (or go pick it up).

  • A professional photographer is necessary to get high resolution quality images of your work for your website, prints, business cards, and other promotional materials.

  • Websites are important for showcasing your art and come with their own costs.

Oh! Let's not forget taxes! The government wants a piece of the action too!

Lastly, although this is not a comprehensive list by any means, are gallery costs.

Galleries have their own expenses so they usually keeps 40-50% of the sale of an artwork. So if the artist needs $500 for a piece then the gallery will sell it for $1,000 or more. If you are looking for a deal you may get a better price directly from the artist instead of going to a gallery.

One note, if you do find an artist to purchase art from directly I advise against barging on the price. As you can see from the list above, the artist has lots of expenses to cover!

And, as a matter of fact when I think about the price of my own artwork, well, maybe I need to raise it. 😉

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