What's it Worth? Pricing Botanical Art
by Carol Woodin, Director of Exhibitions
Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist - Volume 22, Issue 4
Some artists find setting a price for their work is more of an art than producing the artwork itself! Artists face a conundrum: “If I put too high a price on this, will it sell? If I put a low price on it, will I be losing money? What is the true value of this work?” Let’s try to look at a seemingly subjective process objectively.
Time is probably your number one expense. Many artists set a per hour price, and some artists price by the week. Regardless of the hourly/weekly rate you set, it’s good to keep track of the time you spend on the artistic execution of your piece, as well as the peripheral time spent in research, documentation, and communication. This will give you a realistic starting point.
Overhead is a consideration in every endeavor. Over time, an artist begins to know the average percentage of overhead in producing an artwork. We all understand materials must be factored in, but so should communications, plants, travel for research, computer capabilities, framing, promotion, and record keeping, including professional photography/electronic files of your artwork. If you exhibit your work and offer it for sale, shipping costs can be substantial, especially for international exhibitors.
Reputation when pricing artwork means factoring in the position the artist occupies within their market. Where does the artist find themselves careerwise in relation to others: do they consider themselves beginners exhibiting locally, in the middle of the pack, or in the upper echelon of experienced, internationally exhibiting artists? Get a broad view of the art market; visit exhibitions, paying attention to the size and complexity of the work, quality of framing and matting, and artists’ stature in the field so you can more accurately assess your position related to others.
Consistency in pricing across all platforms creates credibility in your product. In ASBA exhibitions, pricing variation has become increasingly broad. A portion of the expense of producing exhibitions is defrayed by artwork sales at exhibitions, so it is important prices are in keeping with artworks each artist has in other locations. When artworks are priced much higher than those available in other locations, it undermines the credibility of both the artist and botanical art in general. Undercutting your art seller/gallery can damage your reputation, and pricing artwork deliberately high so it will not sell violates at least the spirit of the agreement between artist and seller. Artists working professionally agree, once an artwork is priced, the selling price should remain consistent, whether or not a commission must be paid from that price.
A final consideration is whether botanical art is seen as a credible fine art genre by the public. Perhaps you and I think it is, but the public must also regard this positively. Part of this relates to the way we value our own work and place it into the public sphere.
This can be the most difficult thing we do, in part because of this broader view of the genre. Perhaps this formula will serve as a starting point:
Time + overhead + reputation = price.