Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m an amateur artist who’s ready to start being more professional.
I’ve produced a really beautiful painting this month, just in time to
enter it into the local mayor’s art show. I paid to have it really nicely
framed, and, because the competition only accepts digital images, to
have a really nice picture taken of it. The gallery would take 45% of
the painting sells. So far, not even counting my time, I am several
hundred dollars in debt. But mostly I want to get in. There are about
100 entries and maybe 75 selected. The gallery makes money if things
sell. One friend said people only buy high-priced art because they
think it’s worth more; another said price low and who cares if you
don’t make money. What do you think?
I think the phrase “starving artist” comes from the fact that buying
objects of beauty is a luxury purchase. In the world of mass-produced
cheap art, buying an original painting is going to happen primarily
because someone falls in love with it, not strictly because of the price.
That said, what’s your goal: to get into the show, sell the piece, and/or
get people to see what you do?
Since this is your maiden voyage, set the price where you would with
no/low overhead bite by a gallery, as long as that covers all your out-
of-pocket costs and their take. Rationalize by saying you had fun
making the art, and if you get in, there’s potential upside to being
acknowledged and seen. If it sells, slowly increase your prices the next
time. Or experiment and go much higher, to see if perceived value
changes because of cost. Most importantly: have fun with every part
of the process. Art is an expression of joy and gratitude. If it becomes
anything else, take a break.