As an artist pricing their work the first time, you usually come face-to-face with two realities: the idea of commodifying your idealism, and your lack of knowledge about pricing expectations and dynamics.
Accept that your work has both artistic and monetary value
Even if your artmaking is based on idealism (searching for ways to expand a medium, to express yourself, etc), this idealism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a part of you, and thus a part of the society you’re living in. The societies that most of us live in exchange money for goods: once you start thinking about selling your work, you obviously need to attach a price tag to it. The better this price tag suits both your and the public’s expectations, the more satisfied you will usually be. But as the very first step towards pricing your work, you need to accept that your work has both artistic and monetary value. This acceptance ideally leads to a curiosity about not only the artistic, but also the monetary side of it:
- Research the price ranges of local artists with similar CVs, who work in your medium: Find out where they exhibit and go there to take notes on their works’ prices. What range is it roughly in? This will help you see the realities of commodifying your work, and let you understand local price expectations – and which artists transcend them. It will help you see which artists stand where: some students are laughably expensive, while more established artists can sometimes be weirdly cheap.
- Discuss pricing with your peers: Ask your fellow artists, as well as your professors and their assistants (if you’re in art school): “How would you price my work, and why?” Try to understand their reasonings, and whether they can be applied by you. You will realize that a lot of successful professionals have little knowledge about pricing: stay attentive and open-minded, but know that you’ll have to make your own decisions.
- Investigate resistance: If you feel resistance about pricing your work, investigate its source: you might be worried about having a price tag for your work, since this firmly marks it in your economic surroundings. While encouraging to some, it will be unwanted by others, since it brings your art into a very specific domain of the world.
If you pursue your work as a hobby, you might never want to price it; if this is your situation, consider how pricing your work can have positive benefits for your artistic process as well: it can heighten your awareness about your work’s quality. Similar to getting started on a piece, it’s another step to making the work real; not through physical manifestation (which is part of the artmaking process), but by letting people know they can own it, and at what price. If you’re worried about pricing, could you actually be worried about the quality or finishedness of your work? Could you be worried about disinterest or about your monetary place in the world making you unhappy? Try to understand these questions to decide your path forward.
Pricing gets easier once you get started. Developing a deeper understanding of general pricing dynamics, as well as specific knowledge about your local art scene will ultimately enhance your range of action – and gradually increase your confidence in pricing your artwork. This will allow your work to inhabit a specific place of the art world: the art market. For all its ambiguity, this will most likely help you in your progression as a professional artist: to understand the monetary aspect of your work, and to find your personal approach on it.
It might eventually be hard to remember these initial troubles, which are the consequence of a profession so deeply based on ideals of purity and idealism.