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The Art Price Mystery – by Robert Genn

The Art Price Mystery - by Robert Genn

Yesterday, Mark Sharp of Invermere, B.C. wrote, "I was in a gallery looking at a
large painting by a living artist. With no dramatic message or spiritual
awakenings, it was just a really nice painting--and it was priced at $24,000.00.
It probably took the painter one or two days. On the same wall was another same-
size painting by another living artist. It was equally well executed, of similar
effort, but priced at $6,000.00. Both artists are the same age with similar
educational backgrounds. Why the vast price difference? Is it an artist's mystique,
proven sales record, better marketing, or what?"

Thanks, Mark. Art pricing has to do with control. Artists who seek professional
status should not be seen selling their work irregularly or at lower prices.
Dealers (and artists) who control supply are better able to control demand.
Scarcity is important. That $6,000 artist may be three times as prolific as the
other guy. Another consideration is location. If an artist offers work in barber
shops or less prestigious galleries he cannot expect to get the same kind of prices
as in high-end commercial venues. Further, artists whose work is exhibited in
public museums or loaned out from significant private collections can be expected
to demand more.

There's another factor that's a bit harder to quantify. The higher-priced painter
may just happen to be the better painter. Artists whose work is of higher quality
(or merely consistently marketable) are sought out by leading galleries. Further,
dealers have a collective interest in seeing an artist's prices escalate, thus
adding the sniff of investment to an otherwise mostly emotional purchasing
decision. For the artist, a few years of 10-20 percent annual price increases
leads to eventual high prices.

Serious artists have an obligation to themselves to secure a strong cash flow so
money worries are left behind. Travel, study, challenge, exploration and even
down-time can be expensive, but they are the life blood of creativity.

My democratic inbox is frequently loaded with questions on prices, marketing
strategy, recession ploys, distribution and sales methodology. One might conclude
that art is a branch of economics. While the burden of money will forever be with
us, quality is still ahead of whatever is in second place. That's why artists need
to go to their rooms. Quality needs to be made. But please don't ask me to define
"quality." With the exception of markets based on unnatural spin and hype, quality
(whatever it is) is often the harbinger of higher prices.

Best regards,


PS: "Nowadays nothing but money counts: a fortune brings honors, friendships; the
poor man everywhere lies low." (Ovid 43 BC--AD 17)

Esoterica: Younger and early-career artists need to enter the market at prices low
enough to tempt collectors, but high enough to make it worthwhile for potential
dealers. Even dealerless artists need to keep this in mind when laying the
groundwork for a career in art. Everyone loves a penny stock that goes up. "Price
is what you pay. Value is what you get." (Warren Buffett)
Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to publish from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of Robert's artistic insight, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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