Due to my transparent approach to pricing my work, many conversations I have had lately have revolved around this. Most any artist will tell you that their work is not made with sales in mind, and I genuinely believe that this is true the vast majority of the time. Nevertheless, aside from a very few cases, commercial success of some degree will be required and probably desired. Having someone buy your work is an undeniably satisfying thing, both in terms of the bank balance and the critical acceptance.
But buying and selling art is a funny thing. Pricing work is pretty much arbitrary, based on our own valuation of the things we’ve made. We may compare our prices with the upper end of the art market, or with our peers, or ask opinions or advice, but in the end there really is no frame of reference to guide us. By the same token there is no more information for anyone considering buying what we make. We are very much reliant on an encounter with someone who just happens to like our work and more or less agrees with our valuation of it.
Furthermore, the manner in which art is traditionally presented, marketed and delivered is very specific and based around an arguably excessive reverence for the object and exclusivity of general access. There is a perceived risk that trying to sell artwork in a way that is considered less “respectful” lessens its worth. Thankfully this is changing. Art fairs have never been more numerous, popular or successful. The majority gather together galleries, but there is a growing number that offer individual artists the opportunity to present their work, for example The Other Art Fair, New Artist Fair and Art Rooms to name just a few. It’s very promising.
Art is of course also sold online, again most notably through large operations like Artsy. They offer galleries another opportunity to market themselves and their artists, but also by sites that cater for the artist as individual. Saatchi Art is the most well known, but others are appearing, and I for one have noticed a far more personal approach from organisations such as ArtThou and CurateArt, both of whom have been contacting artists directly and meeting them in person.
I am one of a growing number of artists setting up their own personal online sales conduit (my webshop can be found here). Most artists are doing it all themselves and for me this is a fantastic opportunity to make work instantly accessible. And accessible is the important word. As I mentioned, traditional presentation, marketing, pricing and delivery are all geared to make art exclusive, but this does nothing for the majority of artists. In my opinion there is absolutely no reason or benefit for most of us as self sustaining to subscribe to this approach. I want my work to be available to as many people as possible, so putting it online is, as they say, a no brainer. Needless to say I welcome enquiries from anyone and everyone.
But simply making work available does not equate to making it accessible. This is where pricing comes into the equation. Any artist wishing to get their work seen will probably have a website and is likely to use social media. The value of both is undeniable and artists embraced the opportunity long ago. However if we are to make our work truly accessible we must also give serious thought to pricing, which is why my structure is entirely transparent (link).
I set up my webshop for 2 reasons. Firstly, honestly, and quite obviously, it’s a commercial venture. A sales conduit over which I have total control, which allows me to make my work available worldwide and which I hope will help fund my practice and my life. Secondly though, I genuinely want to make my work accessible, such that anyone at all may reasonably consider owning it. The webshop itself makes it available – it can be bought with a few clicks, and the pricing makes it affordable. Together availability and affordability equate to accessibility.
As I mentioned, I’m not the only one adopting this approach. Artists such as Jessica Wilson have been making their work available at affordable prices through web shops. Gabriele Herzog is doing something similar with her Sunday 88 project on Instagram. Chris Rexroad and Charlie Roberts’ Got It For Cheap and Kris Day‘s Papercuts follow similar models but gather together works by a large number of artists.
True accessibility: availability + affordability is growing swiftly and if the trend continues I believe has the potential to improve the way in which art changes hands in a very big way.