Wandering prices

March 11, 2008

Robert Genn

This morning Kirk Wassell of Irvine, California wrote:
"Recently, I accepted a three-month placement in a
Restaurant-Gallery called Bistango. I soon realized that the
lighting was inadequate. My real dilemma came when I was told
my prices would be more than doubled. For example, my price was
$650, their price was $1500. I was astonished. Is this typical,
or even appropriate? What are my rights in negotiating what my
work will sell for? As I'm new at the game, am I at the mercy
of the system? Could you give me a general pricing scheme?"
Thanks, Kirk. Whether your work is in the National Gallery or
in Heidi Fleiss's House of Ill Repute, your prices to the
general public need to be the same. This means that only you
control the final price. The percentage that various venues
take is negotiated from your standard pricing. If you don't
take control no one else will, and some brigands will run over
you. Wandering prices are most unfair to your collectors and
spoil the steady upward progression an artist can enjoy during
a lifetime of creativity. If you want to see a general pricing
scheme that happens to be based on size, you can look at mine.
It's at http://www.robertgenn.com/dealers.php Over the years, a
few dealers who have wandered from my standard pricing have
been unceremoniously dumped.
Further, successfully offering art to sensitive collectors and
the general public is all about context. Legitimate galleries
or dealers with decent reputations beat restaurants hands down.
Artists gain legitimacy when they show in art galleries. While
there may be a few exceptions, most restaurants give little but
poorly-lit exposure and random splashes of gravy.

When artists are starting out, as you seem to be, Kirk, there's
the temptation to go for barber shops, hotels, malls, parking
lots, Heidi's place, or any other joint that will take them. I
advocate working diligently and getting your work to sufficient
quality so that effectively-run galleries will go to bat for
you. Serious buyers, whether they're looking for art that is
decorative, collector, investment or whatever, are in the
acquisition mode when they walk into galleries. This is the
spot for respect, satisfaction and action. While artist-run
galleries, art fairs and expos are other decent venues,
consistent pricing in all spots and across the spectrum of your
creativity makes for long-term joy.
Best regards,


PS: "It's a lot easier to sell organic vegetables from an
organic grocery than from a hardware store." (Alar Jurma)

Esoterica: "Commerce," said Robert Ingersoll, "is the great
civilizer." But commerce is no simple business. University
degrees are given just for studying it. Then you have to go out
and master the stuff in the real world. Artists, no matter how
sensitive, must not proceed blindly. With a little effort they
can learn how to be cheap at the right times and places, as
well as (often in later years) how to be expensive. In life and
art, marketing is an art. Dolly Parton got it right when she
said, "You'd be surprised how much it costs to look this