I would like to take a few minutes to share some of my thoughts on the dynamics of art prices.
This week, I had an opportunity to become acquainted with the work of a certain “painter” who has created many low merit paintings – lacking in depth and originality but appealing to the untrained eye. This man sells “recreations” of his paintings, supposedly painted by him, but in reality painted by hired workers with no real art-making experience, whom he has trained to paint in his style.
These recreations cost the buyer about $140 for a rather large painting, shipping included. That seems like a great deal, and it’s true. For that amount of money you can only usually get a Giclee print of a painting.
This “artist” has to pay for the shipping, the paint, the canvas, and the wages of his workers. In the end, he probably makes about $50 on one of these paintings, but because of aggressive marketing and ridiculously low prices he sells a lot, maybe 100 painting a month or more.
Such a person is not as much an artist as a business person. I think his business practices are fair, and if what you are interested in is mediocre work that will never be worth more than what you paid for it (and which will end up in a pile in a second hand store for $5), then this artist is your man.
The alternative is to purchase something from a real artist. It will cost you more – maybe $200 for a small painting. But when you stretch the other guy’s painting you would have spent $200 anyway. And if you frame it, you would have spent $300. For $300 you can buy a medium-small painting in a frame from a real artist. This art will not only bring you a lot more lasting pleasure, but it will also become a real investment. At the end of the day, the hundreds of mediocre painters are forgotten, while the few artists who have genuine vision and talent will always be remembered and valued.
As a rule of thumb, a painter’s prices should go up by 10% every year. If a painter sold for $100 15 years ago and still sells for $100, then obviously, something is wrong. This means that the art is not in demand. Nobody wants it, and even the artist doesn’t value it.
At the rate of growth of 10% a year, the prices for paintings double every 8 years. In 2007, I was selling 24″ x 36″ paintings for $500 (and sometimes giving discounts). In 2014, those paintings are worth $1000. I sometimes give discounts, but the work generally cannot be bought for any less. This protects the investment of those who purchased my work in 2007 and 2008. Also, I give my customers the chance to purchase new work at old prices – I would sell a 24×36 painting for close to $500 to a customer that bough from me in 2007. This is a way of thanking my clients for investing in me.