by Bill Thomas
How do you price a painting - a work of art by a working artist? According to owners and managers of San Clemente’s local galleries, that’s one of the major problems both for consumers and artists - the pricing criteria of an artistic piece.
Do you establish sales tags by the hours it took to create a work, the cost of materials, the travel expenses to faraway painting scenes, the years the artist has spent painting, the average of past sales? How does the price of commissioned art compare with originals? What about reproductions - giclees? The answers to these important questions are widely considered and broadly based.
Serious artists are motivated to sell their works for what they feel they’re worth. Buyers usually want to obtain the best value possible for their dollar. Who can blame such reasonable desires of either party?
Professional artists are also accustomed to increase the cost of their skillful output as their reputations grow, and, as they sell more art, it becomes more valuable. Purchasers usually want to add beauty to their home or business décor, which reminds them of scenes, objects and people they admire and enjoy. Or, they may be sophisticated collectors seeking the creations of artists whose talents they feel will continuously increase the worth of their investments. Besides training, years of experience and selling history, artists not only place a financial standard on their talent, but on the physical characteristics of their work like size, framing, subject matter, color, complexity, weight, detail, material costs, time, composition, theme, texture, brush strokes, or degree of abstraction.
According to Kirk Saber, owner of the WestEdge Gallery, each artist develops his or her own personal formula to set base prices for typical works. Copies or giclees are usually priced midway between original and limited editions of lithographs, depending on the costs of the copying process and the surface upon which the finished product is reproduced. Contrary to common assumption, artists usually avoid subjective criteria in pricing, such as what the art means to them, what its message is, or how it makes them feel. One analogy for considering art prices in the art world, is the base price in the automobile world … a new vehicle with no extras. The basic model has an initial value; it’s the amount and quality of extras that establish the ultimate pricing criteria.
At Gallery 104, the cost of each art piece is negotiated with guest artists, and is set according to what’s feasible for both the gallery and the artists. Prices range from a low of $100 to $5,000 for a large six foot piece, with a $700 to $1,200 average range for 30”X40” paintings. Giclees are one half the cost of originals and can be reproduced at the buyer’s request. Posters range from $40 to $150
At Gallerie George, Gail Roff suggests that many people who buy art want to know that others have purchased that artist and what prices were paid. Her gallery’s prices range from a $23 stone fish to $390 and up for limited edition works. The most expensive painting is $25,000. For commissioned art, Patricia George, as do most artists, provides the client with a basic sketch, discusses the composition and colors she’ll be using, leaving other options open. The gallery averages 12 to 15 painting sales a week.
“Every day is different,” Gail reported, “there’s really no consistency…you’re real art buyers, those who know and buy good art, usually buy in the fall. They normally don’t like to fight crowds.”
At the Frame House and Gallery, art prices for originals, depending on size, range from $350 to $1500.
“The better the artist, the more expensive,” owner Kirk Rosi commented. “We have a spectrum of things you can get at different prices, prints, and different ways of framing or mounting art. Framing is the largest part of this gallery’s business.”
The bright, active and colorful originals of San Clemente’s ocean and waterfront at Blind Faith begin at $350. A digitalized painting costs $150, but the more experienced painters may charge up to $3,500. “In many cases, prices are set by distributors, but local works may be negotiable,”
Endeavors developed by both amateurs and experienced artists at the Art Association Gallery - original oils, watercolors and acrylics - span from a low of $200 to a high of $4,000. The average is about $650.
San Clemente Art Gallery Director Pam Hill perhaps sums up the art-pricing dilemma best, “Each artist can claim his/her own value of a personal effort that took a lifetime to produce.” b