The Price Is Right(ish)

Back in early March, in the lead up to The Other Art Fair, I mentioned that my prices were to increase and that in due course I would offer a more in depth explanation. Admittedly I had intended to do so rather sooner than this, but for one reason or another it’s taken me until now to get something down on paper (screen).

The changes I have implemented have been to increase the prices of my unique works (I.e. one off paintings that are not part of an edition) from 5 pence to 20 pence per square centimetre. Paintings made in limited editions will remain at the original rate. In addition, I have made a minor adjustment to the wording of the system for the purposes of clarity, so the sterling price of a painting is now calculated as follows:

(height in cm X width in cm) x 0.2 = Sterling price

Prices are rounded to the nearest £10

The minimum price for any individual painting is £100.

It has taken significant thought to reach this point and the adjustment has been made taking various factors into consideration. As I have explained previously, my pricing structure is an important part of my approach to putting my work out into the world. It is critical to me that, as long as I am deciding my prices, I retain the defining factors of accessibility and the transparency. Although a fourfold increase is certainly not insignificant, I am committed to keeping my limited edition paintings as accessible as they have been. Furthermore, I am still using a clear and openly shared formula to price my work to ensure there is no uncertainty and no threat of ‘predatory pricing’.

A number of reasons have lead me to raise my prices. Thankfully the vast majority are positive, but I will admit there have been one or two influences which I find myself tolerating rather than embracing. Let’s start with the good things though. As I mentioned back in March, over the twelve months leading up to that point interest in and exposure of my work had increased significantly, and I’m very happy to report that this trend has continued since. I’m looking forward to being involved in various exhibitions in the coming months and am thrilled to have recently joined the stable of Atlantic Contemporary, an exciting new curatorial team and art dealer in the North of England. Of course I will be advising you on the various projects and shows with greater specificity as and when they occur, but for now I can say that I am very happy and flattered by the interest that’s coming my way.

Again, as I mentioned before the advice I have received from artists, collectors, gallerists and others in the industry has been unanimous in suggesting my work is worth more than I have been charging for it. Again, this is very encouraging to hear and although it has taken time I have come round to the idea that such a consensus of opinion does carry weight. And this has gone to help me look at my work in a slightly different way – with an increased confidence and assurance that the time, experience, skill and thought that goes into it justifies asking a bit more money for the paintings I make. I can’t say I feel entirely comfortable doing so, but I do at least feel more justified.

So, there is a good deal of positivity behind my price adjustment, but as I mentioned other, less palatable factors have come to light which, reluctantly, I feel I have to take into account. Vague and arbitrary as the vast majority of art pricing is, nevertheless it is true that, lacking a better or more understandable value structure, many people use a price tag to assess the quality of an artwork. Most of the time that doesn’t make any sense, particularly in the case of the vast amount of work existing outside the tiny “dealers’ market” which, with its insider trading and artificial price hiking, offers a ridiculously unhelpful template for independent artists struggling to get a handle on what to ask for what they make. Still, it’s clear that although pricing my work the way I have been keeps it accessible, paradoxically it can also be a deterrent to potential clients. Seems crazy, but I have heard high level gallerists explain that whilst they couldn’t sell a work at one price, by doubling it, they shifted the piece instantly. There isn’t much to like about that, but it’s from the horse’s mouth. Similarly I have spoken to gallerists who explained that although they liked a certain artist’s work a great deal, the prices that the artist set themselves were too low for it to be worth taking them on. Now this seems a bit daft to me as any successful or experienced gallerist would surely be able to make suggestions to an artist and adjust prices of any work they chose to exhibit based on their superior knowledge of the market, their clients and their business, however, this again comes from a genuine conversation, and cannot be dismissed out of hand.

So, I hope that gives you a decent idea of where my decision to raise prices has come from. As I say, it’s not something I’m entirely at peace with, but in light of the evidence I think it makes sense. It’s hard to balance the influence of the market with the reservations I have about it, and my belief that price levels in general will drop, however, although my feelings are mixed, what I won’t do is apologise for charging a bit more for my paintings because I believe the change to be justifiable.

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