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Re: Galleries / Exhibitions / Pricing

Pricing is a pain.

I say that as both an artist, a binder, and a gallery owner.  I've had to
contend with the issue from just about every perspective and point of

The only thing that I have come to understand is that you have to price
according to a given market, once you figure out what that market is.  And
keep your pricing consistant in that market.

Let me explain a bit: whether you show your work in a gallery or in a
booth at the local fair or out of your home to your friends, you need to
have the same price for pieces that the average, intelligent, person will
see as comparable.  As an example, a watercolorist who works consistantly
in half-sheet size, matted and framed, should price all their work at
about the same level.  Just because you like one piece more than another
doesn't mean that the buying public will agree with you, and they perceive
pricing to be pretty arbitrary as it is.

Set a retail price, and stick with it.  If someone figures out that they
can get a piece from you for half what they saw it for in a gallery, they
will never buy from a gallery.  And the gallery will go out of business.
And you won't have any chance to show your work in it anymore.  Further,
if the gallery owner finds out that you have sold work for less than what
you had it in their space, they will no longer carry your work, and will
tell other gallery owners what you did, _because_ if they don't, they will
go out of business.  Simple economics.

If you sell a piece through a gallery, they get their commission, and you
should be happy with the price you set.  If you sell it out of your house,
then consider it a "bonus".

So, how do you set a price?  Yeesh.  I wish there was an easy answer to
that.  A large part of it is market-driven, though that can change over
time. We have been able to bring a heightened awareness of the arts in our
community, and to educate the public about prices that are reasonable,
over the last couple of years.  With th result that we have been able to
raise prices slowly for most of the artists that we carry.  But if your
work isn't selling at $1,000, maybe that is just because the local market
will not support that sort of expense, but someplace else might.
        As an example, we sell a _lot_ of artwork to people who are
visiting Columbia, whether because of business or tourism or whatever.
They come into our gallery and are frequently stunned by the _low_ prices,
certainly low in relation to what they might find in a large city or on
either coast.  That's because we're in the midwest, where the cost of
living (and doing business, though those things are substantial enough)
are much lower, and where the local market prices things accordingly.

So, pricing is a pain.  Doing the work because you love it is important,
but you should always sell it for a price that encourages you to make
another.  Otherwise you will get burned out on the work, and will no
longer love it.

Good luck!


  James T. Downey


"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."  Goethe

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