how to valuate artwork?

When determining how to find the value of artwork you can break it down to six major categories. These six major categories in my opinion will have the biggest impact on price.

How to valuate artwork?

  1. Who bought the art work?
  2. Is the artist in a museum?
  3. The position of the artist in the art world? This questions is closely related to point two above.
  4. The media of the artwork?
  5. The size of the artwork? Believe it of not size matters. And also quantity if multiple pieces.
  6. The venue for purchasing or the exhibition of the artwork.

How to value or price artwork – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

How Do You Put A Value or Price On Artwork?

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider is the artist’s sphere of influence in the art world. If the artist has no name yet and is not known by art critics then the majority of new print or photography will sell in the $150 to $1,500 range. Oil painting will be in the similar range.

But if the artist is in the Guggenheim museum, upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, then forget it.

The museum was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939 and is the home to many famous artists like Piet Mondrian one of the pioneers of 20th century abstract art.

The average Joe or Jane is not likely going to be able to purchase artwork from this artist unless there last name is Bezos or Gates. Another factor to consider is demand and availability. If there is no big demand and art is available from an artist, then the price is likely to be lower or the artist may be open for negotiations.

However if there is limited artwork available and the artist is in demand then this changes everything.

Photo by WikiImages

Artist Value - What is The Position of the Artist in the Art World?

Artist who can sell an oil painting for $20,000 in my opinion is considered very successful. And artist who can sell a $500,000 or more oil painting is considered over the top and are internationally renowned and most likely have exhibits in the top museums.

Here are some examples of very expensive art that sold. Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold a Picasso for $7.79 million. And Chinese French painter Zao Wou-Ki sold two paintings for $65.1 million and $11.5 million, respectively. And let’s not forget the Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” which sold at Christie’s in mid November of 2017 for $450 million. Art is a is a 63 billion dollar market.

How Artwork Media and Pricing Works

Did you know, in general, large-scale sculptures are the most expensive media? Sculpture that is professionally sold must be made of permanent material like bronze or stone. This alone pushes the price up. Just think about the material cost alone. I shutter to think about having to scrap a piece and start over again. 

Works created in these materials require specialized manufacturing processes that cost thousands of dollars for a single sculpture to the artist. After sculptures, large paintings tend to be the highest in price. Paintings are always at the top because they are unique objects.
Prints and paper works are usually lower prices than painting and sculpture. Since there are many copies of the same print, many people can have the same print, so that each impression is less precious.
Many painters create accompanying works. These are usually prints that enable them to have an inventory of work at a more diverse price range. For example, if an artist sells a 36 x 36 oil painting for $ 1,500, the same artist could sell an 11 x 14 drawing on paper for $100 or so.

The Size and Prices of Artwork

Large scale artworks tend to lead to higher prices. Now that being said there are many exceptions and there are many small scale artworks that are  exceptionally labor intensive. In general, large scale works are more expensive to produce because they require more materials, and also a attract a completely different type of buyer.

The average Joe or Jane who buys an 11 ” x 14″ piece of art usually buys the piece to decorate his or her home. Most people simply do not have the space in their living room for a 60″ painting. There is no way a 60″ painting will fit in my living room. It would have to replace the TV and that is not going to happen, right? The boss who buys a 60″ painting must have a very large residence and most likely an art collector. The 60″ TV and the 60″ painting can hang side by side on the same wall.

The venue in which your work is shown also determines how your work is priced. At the bottom are open studios, local art fairs and shows, or a very casual neighborhood event in which an artist opens his or her studio to the public. Everything over $50 is unlikely to be sold at most of these types of events. The crowds at an open event are predominantly local people interested in art, and the purchases they make are usually small purchases.

I have participated in local events in the past and I generally sell small artwork for $50 or so. Most folks coming to these evens treat it like a yard sale. And I would say most purchases are impulse buys.

In contrast, the pricing of an artwork for $50 or so would never happen in a commercial gallery in a large city. Each gallery is different but it is typical for commercial gallery prices to start at about $300 for small works, up to $20,000 or more for larger pieces. And even more at the top galleries across the country. And there is good reason. Galleries have to be compensated for their promoting, showing and housing of the art. It is justifiable that they receive a commission. Their commission could be as much as 50%. And its customary that most galleries have a say in determining the price of your work.

When I talk about larger pieces I am also including galleries or artwork items as well. For example, many of my artworks are sold in multiples and not just singles. When people buy my ceramic fish they usually buy more than one to hang on their wall. The cost goes up due to more time, materials and effort went into creating 3 or 4 pieces than one piece.

How do you approach your own artwork pricing? How to avoid prices that are so low or so high that it becomes embarrassing?

One option is to consider the cost of the art materials and the approximate number of hours worked on the artwork when pricing. The overall cost of art materials varies greatly depending on the piece. For example, an oil painting requires a wooden frame, oil paint, brushes, rags, pallet, and solvent. All this adds up but some of which can be used again on another piece of artwork.

So it may be wise to add up the cost with that in consideration.

By comparison, a drawing on paper of the same size costs very little. Ink and paper cost very little in comparison.

Photo by Abigail Keenan

After the materials are added up the hours worked on the art is taken into consideration. Hours are then multiplied by an hourly rate. Many artists choose a rate that ranges from $10-$50 an hour. So taking into consideration the supplies and the hours a cost can be derived. This cost can then be rationally justified and is appropriate for the art being sold.

This method does not take into consideration demand and other qualities that may drive the prices higher but gives a ballpark appropriate price. For example, if the artwork for a particular artist is selling like hot cakes then the price may go up. This holds true even for local artists. the artist could be on the rise and at some point could end up in the Guggenheim.

Pricing art is always challenging, particularly for new artists who do not have a record. But once you have more experience in selling art you will become more aware of what price is right. And also for those buyers, once you have made several purchases you will have more experience and will know more about what prices are fair. The bottom line is that you always want to be fair and be able to justify your final price. I hope this article provided you with some valuable information and has helped you in answering how much does original art cost.

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