Art Shows (and pricing art accordingly)


“You have a hair growing out of your forehead,” Dea says to me as Los Angeles’ Fabulous and Glamorous seem to glide by in a Gumby skate-walk-like movement.  “It’s much lower than your hairline,” she goes on to tell me.  I guess some rogue hair sprouted on my forehead, half an inch lower than my hairline.  “Can you pull it out?” I ask with panic in my voice, as I start to imagine myself slipping into a Neanderthal shape.  “Got it!”  Thank God for girlfriends.  I didn’t come here for a robust discourse about my hairy forehead.  I’ll leave that discussion for my High School reunion.  I came here to talk about pricing Photography for Art Shows.


A couple of Sunday’s ago I exhibited some of my framed prints at an annual underground indie art show in Los Angeles.  A couple thousand people came out to look at a select group of creativity.  In addition to Photography, there were Paintings, Illustrations, Sculptures, Jewelry, Hair and Makeup artistry, Fashion shows and live music.  There was a lot thrown at public that night.  Everyone seemed to be having a good time.  I received a lot of compliments and some questions about the price of my art.

As I walked around, admiring everyone else’s art, I started to realize that my framed prints were priced way too high - for that show.  People were selling paintings, almost the same size as my prints, for under $100.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t even close to that number.  I started to wonder if I should lower the cost of my art.  Then I remembered walking through the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, California.  The least expensive picture in there was a 4”x6” black and white print, with white matting around it (no frame), costing more than $800.  There was also a 50”x50” framed piece going for $50,000.  The Photographer wasn’t anyone ultra famous.  I asked the front desk attendant how many 50”x50” pieces they’ve sold.  “We’ve sold two so far,” he tells me with a straight face.  I try to hide my shock and awe.  “We sell more than people think!”

To start, I am not well versed on the topic of pricing Art.  However, I do understand how to figure out my raw materials cost.  This is the starting point I use to price my art.  Regarding my framed prints at the show, I wasn’t selling them anywhere near $50,000.  However, I started to wonder if I should price my art based on the venue of a show.  If I ever have the opportunity to grace the walls of Peter Fetterman’s gallery, would I charge more than what I was asking at the indie art show?  My Economics degree winces at that thought because that seems so inconsistent.  To artificially inflate or deflate a price based on venue seems like an inaccurate way to conduct business, especially if the demand for my artwork stays the same.  Thus, inflating or deflating prices should be based on the demand for work, not the venue.