Determining Artwork Value: Don’t Undersell yourself!
By Emilie Francis Moffat
Pricing ones’ artwork can be the most challenging stage of a works’ conception. You put countless hours and endless amounts of energy into your artistic practice, and you deserve recognition for that effort. But how to decide a price point? This is a complicated part of the artist’s role, and there is no one easy answer to the task. Whether you’re an emerging artist or are well established, it can be a struggle to master this part of the process. Regardless of your method, remaining objective is vital when pricing your work. There is no universally agreed upon way to calculate price, but we’ve compiled a few popular formulas here to help you in the right direction.
Calculation by square inch
Square inch pricing involves calculating the size of your work in (you guessed it) square inches, and then multiplying it by a selected dollar amount. The amount you choose depends on your reputation and credentials. As your art practice evolves and gains credibility, these amounts can be adjusted to align with your growth. It also doesn’t hurt to round to the nearest multiple of 10 or 50, as people like clean, even numbers. Important to consider with this formula is that you might want to lessen your square inch multiplier for particularly large works, to keep the price point approachable.
Example: a 13x19” painting and a square inch multiplier of $2.
(13” × 19”) = 247 square inches
247 square inches × $2 = $494
Rounded to $500
Calculation by linear inch
If your practice involves works with extreme variations in size, the above formula can lead to large discrepancies in cost. If that is the case, this formula might provide more consistency in your pricing. Linear inch pricing works like this:
Example: an 18 × 24” painting at $18 per linear inch:
18 + 24 = 42 linear inches
42 linear inches × $18 = $756
Round to $760
You can also incorporate material cost into the aforementioned formulas. Many artists will double their cost of materials and add it to their calculations at the end, to ensure their initial expenses are profited upon. This can be especially important to consider if you show with businesses like galleries, who often take a 50% commission.
Calculation by time and materials
This third formula is a bit more basic and can be useful if your artistic practice doesn’t involve uniform shapes, or if you are an emerging artist and are yet unsure what your price per square or linear inch should be. With this system, you calculate the number of hours you worked on a piece, and multiply it by a chosen wage, then add your cumulative material costs.
Example: a piece which took 20 hours to create, at an hourly rate of $17, with a $120 material expense:
20hrs x $17 = $340
$340 + $120 = $460
Whatever method you chose, ensure you use it consistently. This allows you to build credibility with galleries, businesses, and buyers. People like to understand why a work is priced a certain way and having a system you use repeatedly means you will never be left unable to explain your prices. Ultimately, pricing is completely up to you, but having a system you can explain easily to people will take the stress of the unknown out of the equation.
Not only should you use the same formula for pricing all your works, but you should not change the price of your work depending on where you’re selling. Galleries take commission from your sales; you want to ensure you are still making a profit even with commission. That being said, your work should cost the same whether you’re selling from your studio or a gallery. Galleries don’t like finding out you’re underselling them from home, and buyers won’t like to find out they could have gotten a better price if they’d bought outside the gallery space, so keep your pricing consistent in and out of potential business spaces.
Of course, no pricing formula is one-size-fits-all, but the important thing is to choose what suits your practice and stick to it. As your practice evolves and your credibility increases, your prices will evolve as well. Not everyone is going to like the way you value your work, no matter your process. That is simply the fickle nature of the art world. But if you follow a consistent formula, you can have the confidence to justify your pricing to anyone who might ask.
Don’t be afraid to research artists in similar stages of their career as you! Understanding the flow of pricing in the market around you is vital to your success in valuing your own work. Our gallery is a great place to check out your peers!
Most importantly, don’t undervalue yourself! When you put your time, effort, and heart into your work, that deserves recognition. Yes, it is important for it to be fairly valued for buyers, but mostly for you!
Photo by Taryn Elliott