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Is there value in making my art affordable?

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In short: yes. There’s value in making your work affordable.

While the art world loves to discuss the highest auction results, most artists sell their work for way lower prices. Is their work (or they themselves) consequently of lesser relevance? Since capitalism uses the price tag as the premier signifier of quality, pricing something affordably will create doubts about that thing’s quality – in some people. Their opinion doesn’t have to matter to you though; there really is value in making your work affordable. Your appreciation for an artwork doesn’t have to coincide with its market value: you don’t like an expensive object just because it’s expensive.

As an artist thinking about your work’s price level, think about your values.

It’s a valid strategy to derive your artwork’s price level from your core humanistic levels: what relevance does it have to you that a friend can afford to buy your art? Compare this to a different art market extreme: your artwork becoming an object of speculation, stashed away in an off-shore art bunker – how do these situations compare to you? As an idealist, you might derive legitimate personal value from knowing that your peers have access to your work, and aren’t left out because of their economic situation.

Pricing your work affordably is a straight-forward way to signal (to yourself and the world) that art matters, even though (or rather: because) it is priced beyond the art world’s economic elitism. An artwork isn’t important because it belongs to a museum or “collection” – it is important because it holds a dear place in someone’s heart. There’s value in making art available to the hearts of both millionaires and your mom. As an artist thinking about your work’s price level, think about your values.

An artwork’s emotional value doesn’t derive from its monetary value.

Rather, an artwork’s monetary level reflects what target audiences you have access to – it’s a consequence of your network, which always also is a consequence of luck. To put it a bit fatalistically: an artwork’s price level doesn’t inherently represent quality, but ultimately luck.

Consider the randomness that each of us gets born into: one’s home country (and its economy), one’s parents (and what they earn) – and their network. These conditions define the foundation from which to work towards visibility and success: are you the offspring of a wealthy family that knows art patrons, curators and museum directors? If so, you didn’t have to work for it, but your artwork’s price tag will reflect it.

Understand that not everyone has the emotional and economic capacities to transcend their geography and social setting. You’re rarely immobile – you can influence life. But you’re still always a product of circumstances – and so is your access to galleries, collectors and gatekeepers. As a consequence, depending on your initial network, there’s limited reason to be proud of creating artworks that sell at high price ranges. And for sure, there’s NO reason to be ashamed of low prices.

Consider reading the anatomy of art pricing, how to price your artwork as a newbie, and the formula to calculate art prices.

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