How do I price my art?

01/08/2023, 1:57 AM
How do I price my art?

Let’s imagine a situation. You are an artist. You are the master of your craft. And finally, you create a work of art that you want to sell. For example, you have already found a gallery for cooperation. As well as customers who are ready to buy your work. But one question remains relevant: how to price your art? Next, we will look at what factors affect the valuation of works of art, and also look at the price calculator for the art market.

How to value something that has no price: art price guide

To evaluate a work of art, you need to consider many factors. For example, each artist wants others to appreciate his/her talent, diligence, activity, participation in exhibitions, education, etc. However, the activities of galleries that sell artworks are no less important. So, how to evaluate such work?

Let’s start with the fact that the art market is one of the most complex economic and cultural formations. Prices for art change from year to year: in general, as for any product. And in this case, art is also a product, no matter how cynical it may sound.

What is special about the art market? The fact is that a work of art is a product that is sold more than once. And the further, the more time passes from the moment of the first sale, the more this work grows in price. Pricing at this stage is influenced by such factors:

  • sales at fairs and auctions;
  • participation in major exhibitions;
  • the presence of work in the exposition of museums;
  • getting artworks into significant collections.

So, the price for this or that work will depend on how active its cultural life is, as well as on who its author is. So, the biography of the author, and the facts of his/her creative life, of course, affect the sale of the art. For instance, paintings by Salvador Dali will cost more than the works of some budding surrealists.

Let’s take a closer look at the factors affecting pricing in the field of art.

how to price your art

Factors that influence the artwork price formation

How to price art? To determine the art price, first, you have to pay attention to the factors that affect this process. It’s worth considering right away: there is no single strategy for evaluating artworks, only one checklist of factors, or a calculator that will assess you.

But we can still highlight some key elements of the price formula for works of art:

  • the artistic value of the work;
  • the labor invested by the author;
  • the material costs;
  • the time that has passed from the moment the work was created to the time it was put up for sale.

The simplest factor is, of course, the cost of materials. Because each artist can calculate how much he/she spent (conditionally) on canvas, paints, brushes, etc. This can be calculated objectively. But what to do with artistic value? After all, it is an intangible factor. This is a subjective characteristic.

📌 Artistic value is the unity of uniqueness, composition, form and content, as well as the strength of the work’s emotional impact on the public.

This is where the phrase comes to mind: an artwork is worth as much as you are willing to pay for it.

The influence of the work and name

However, let’s go further. Author’s work. This factor is directly related to the name of the artist. So, for one master it takes a day to create a picture, for another, it takes months and even years. But the time an author spends creating a work does not correlate with price. If you spent a year on your work, this does not mean that you will sell it for more money.

The fact that the artist’s name influences the evaluation of his/her art is OK. After all, earning a name and reputation in the field of art is not an easy task. And the author also invests a lot of work in the development of this name. Today, the name of the artist is gradually turning (if not already turned) into a brand. Which does not surprise us. After all, in the context of consumer society and mass culture, a brand is a familiar thing.

Other art market pricing features

Pricing in the context of the art market is a stumbling block not only for artists but also for other players: gallery owners, dealers, collectors and curators. True, they are trying their best to make their task easier with the help of template techniques. One of the most popular methods is the so-called costly-way.

📌 The costly-way technique is a way of valuing an artwork, where the price depends on the amount of cost to create the work. The price is calculated based on the account of material, and objective factors with the introduction of individual — special — amendments.
Among such amendments are, for example, the significance that this or that work of art has for culture as a whole: for example, it is world or local art, the work of a famous artist or a newcomer, etc. Sometimes such characteristics of the work are taken into account to form a price using this technique like size or material, writing technique and the uniqueness of the work. So, often small-format paintings by the same author are cheaper than large-format works.

By the way, in matters of size, there is no consensus. But most often for private collections, canvases with a side size of up to a meter are chosen.

📌 In addition, the cost differs depending on who buys a work of art: an investor, a private collector, a designer, a decorator, a dealer, etc. The price will be unique for each art market player.

how to evaluate art

To sum up: how should I price my art

Let’s summarize. The price of an artwork is formed taking into account the following factors:

  • the name and biography of the artist;
  • the “age” of the artwork;
  • the cost of creating the work (material, paint);
  • the uniqueness of the work technique;
  • the size of the work;
  • the technical condition and quality of the work;
  • the importance of art for culture;
  • the buyer’s identity.
🎨 Fun fact: portraits of children cost more than portraits of adults; and the most expensive works are, as a rule, works in the nude style or still-lifes.

Biography of the artist as an evaluation factor

Of course, the most popular question is: how to price your art for beginners? Top tip: start with the artist’s profile. For example, you can sign in and create your artist's profile at Jose Art Gallery. What should be in your profile so that it qualitatively affects the price of your work?

Here are the key points in your biography that you need to consider:

  • Participation in fairs, biennials, auctions and exhibitions (including personal ones). Remember: the main thing is quality, not quantity.
  • Availability of works in private collections, museums, and galleries.
  • The authenticity of your works, technique, and innovation. If your work is interesting, original, unusual, and fresh, it will, of course, attract the attention of the public — and it does not matter whether you are a beginner or a well-known author.
  • Participation in international projects in the field of art, as well as fame in the media.
  • Foreign representation of works and you as an author.
  • Feedback from art critics, experts, gallery owners, curators, colleagues, and collectors.
Sometimes it can happen that the more your representation in exhibitions, catalogs, collections, etc., the more your work is valued. The cost of a work of art increases up to 20% after each personal exhibition of the author or after the inclusion of the work in the catalog.

Art Valuation Calculator

As we have already said, there is no single calculator that can be used to estimate your masterpiece. However, if you are just taking the first steps in valuing an artwork, then this art price calculator can help you. So, if you are in doubt about how to price your art work, use the following formula:

Step 1: title of the artwork and the name of the artist 
Step 2: size (height, width) and year of creation of the work
Step 3: education of the artist
Step 4: material (canvas, wood, glass, fabric, etc.) and technique (oil, watercolor, acrylic, collage, etc.) + material costs
Step 5: genre (portrait, landscape, still life, animalism, abstraction, etc.)
Step 6: participation in exhibitions (city, regional, international)
Step 7: presence of the author’s paintings in museum collections and private collections
Step 8: participation in auctions
Step 9: titles and awards of the artist
Step 10: completeness and preservation of the work of art
Step 11: time spent creating the work

You can also use ready-made online calculators:

  • Artwork Pricing Calculating Tool: here you need to know the exact size of your painting (in inches), your rate per inch, and money spent on materials; or you must enter your rate per hour of work, the number of hours spent creating the work, and the cost of the materials.
  • Art Price Calculator: in this case, what matters is the time of work, your rate per hour of work and the price of materials.
You can independently choose the strategy for evaluating the picture. It often happens that you want to evaluate not your work. And of course, you may not know some data. If you do not know the year the work was created, then 2020 is usually indicated for modern works, and 1980 for paintings from the Soviet period.

Thus, the formation of prices in the field of art is influenced by many factors. They can be divided into objective (price for materials, time to create a painting (in hours), your rate per hour of work) and subjective (your fame as an artist, the cultural significance of a work of art).