I recently received an email from an artist-friend of mine inviting me and several other painters to exhibit a couple of paintings each at a local gallery. There will be advertising in the local newspapers and the gallery owner will provide for an opening night ‘meet the artists reception.’ The friend also added as a reminder: “Remember that the gallery owner will charge a commission of 30% on any paintings sold, so price your paintings accordingly.” And with that final thought, my smile turned to a frown.
Pricing your work for sale is never easy. Some artists take a simple calculation of number of hours worked on a painting multiplied by an hourly rate and then do the arithmetic. You say you have worked 10 hours on a painting? Well, your skills should be priced at least something above the minimum wage level. (You are an artist, after all!) Let’s say, $20.00 an hour. The painting then is priced at $200.00. You look at the painting again. Yes, this is a fair price; this painting is worth $200.00.
But next you remember that the gallery owner will claim his 30% commission and that your painting will net you $140.00, not the $200.00 you felt to be a fair price for your efforts.
The ‘price your paintings accordingly,' reminder rings loud and clear. The ‘new’ arithmetic now tells you to price your painting at $290.00. This amount seems rather off-center; you then re-adjust the price to an even $300.00, which is, let’s be honest, a more professional-looking amount on the wall tag next to your painting.
You remember that the gallery owner is paying rent for his gallery. He has agreed to buy advertising space in the local newspaper promoting this exhibit; he is also paying for the artists’ reception. You agree that he too, like you, deserves to be paid for his efforts.
You wipe the frown from your face. After all, art is a business, too.