Artists: Is asking for a lower price out of line?

I went to Baltimore’s Artscape this weekend and saw some prints I simply must have. Unfortunately, I was with my three year old, he wasn’t feeling well and I had to leave.

I hunted down the artist (a feat considering all I had to go on was that he was based out of Brookline, MA) and printed his order sheet. The kicker is the prices at Artscape were considerably lower than his normal prices.

Is it rude to ask for the lower (or just a) lower price or should I just suck it up, pay the normal price and leave my three year old at home the next time?

I might try and explain to him that you visited him at the Artscape event and were so taken with some of his prints you were going to buy them on the spot - and that you’d set aside just enough to do so, but that your child became ill and unfortunately you were unable to do so. I wouldn’t mention necessarily that you’ve checked out his gallery prices beforehand. Just tell him something along the lines of, “Oh, I just adored that $80 print on display at Artscape! I wanted to contact you about purchasing it”

You’ll have to decide ahead of time though if it’s worth it to you to fork out the extra dough. If he says, “Actually, the regular price is such-and-such …” Try sounding a little disappointed, but don’t push it. He might offer you the discounted price anyways, but if he doesn’t be ready to tell him straight out whether you’re still interested at the higher price.

The price on nearly anything is negotiable, even in the US. The price for art is what the market will bear, which any artist will tell you. I would offer what you are willing to pay, and walk away if you don’t like the answer.

I think XJETGIRLX has a good approach–after all, he was willing to take that price at the art faire, and you would have bought the prints there had not your kid felt ill.

Usually, I get a little annoyed when people try to “bargain” with me on my art prices, because I tend to underprice it as it is. (I’m thinking, “I’m practically giving it away for nothing as it isl, and you still want more off? Screw you!”) But not every artist is the way I am, needless to say. And, this artist clearly was willing to take the lower price at the art fair, so it must be a fairly acceptable price for him.

I don’t know much about this, so this is pure conjecture on my part, maybe others will know more. Is it possible that the price the artist charges is not entirely within his control? Maybe the artist has an agent that s/he sells through exclusively, so the artist can’t just lower the price on his or her own (because this would screw the agent since the agent makes a percentage of each sale).

Just something to think about.

That’s true, TaxGuy–if the artist sells through a gallery, they usually split the earnings of their art 50/50 or thereabouts (at least that’s my experience).

However, it is usual custom for the artist to charge the same price for art sold in the gallery or out. If buyers found out that they could buy the art for, say, 40% cheaper by approaching the artist individually, they’d never buy through the gallery. And how is the gallery going to feel about that?

So, it’s usually considered standard procedure (or at least is strongly encouraged) for the artist to ask the same price that the gallery is charging. To not do so is considered bad form.

However, in this case the artist willingly and openly offered the artwork at a lower price in one place, so I don’t understand why he can’t do it again. If he was “undercutting” his gallery (hypothetically) by charging less at the art faire, well, shame on him.

Personally, I don’t take it too…personally (:D) when people offer me a lower price for a framed print, because I understand that haggling is common. That doesn’t mean I always give in, of course. It depends on the situation. One guy wanted to buy three prints once so I gave him a deal and still made $300 on it. I won’t negotiate on unframed prints, with a few exceptions, such as other artists at a show who like one of my prints and want a copy, particulary if they’ve been friendly and helpful.

“The kicker is the prices at Artscape were considerably lower than his normal prices.”

Then you should ask him why that is, then give him the story about why you didn’t buy at the artscape & see if he gives those prices.

beanbows: do you have a web site with your stuff on it?

yosemitebabe: is 50-50 the most common split? I don’t know anything about the art world, but it seems to me like that’s a hell of a take for the gallery.

(Also, I’ve checked out your site–nice stuff. I’ve never heard of alkyds before, so I wasted a couple of hours googling around on them.)

Taxguy–thanks for your kind words about my artwork! No, alkyds are not that common, but last I checked, the major art manufacterer Windsor-Newton made an affordable line of alkyd paints, so they are really accessable. I love 'em.

To answer your question, yes, in my experience, 50/50 is not uncommon. I usually sell pottery (“fine art pottery”) though, so perhaps the rules are different for other kinds of art, but I don’t see why. (It also may be a regional thing–I have sold a lot of my stuff in the L.A. area,)

beanbows, I know what you mean. Some people are just cheap SOBs.

I especially cannot understand the occasional outrage at my prices. What is this? Am I selling the cure for cancer? Baby’s milk for their starving child? No. I am selling artwork, something they will not die if they don’t get at a deal. If they don’t like my work enough to pay a decent price for it, they will surely survive. No need to get so outraged as if I have a lot of nerve pricing my work for what I consider to be a decent price. (And I always price it on the low side.)

One funny story (while I’m on a roll). I once took one of my plates to a gallery, and we were haggling over the price it should go for. I wanted something like $50. Surely not an outrageous price–not by a long shot for the work I put into it. That would mean the price would be $100 after the gallery added their cut.

The gallery lady balked. She said, “I could understand if you were an established name, but you are not. I don’t think we’ll be able to sell it for this price.”

But I wouldn’t budge. I just wouldn’t. $50 was not that much. I knew the gallery lady was just being pragmatic (she wouldn’t get any money until it sold) but I just couldn’t see selling it for any lower. I fully expected for her to say, “Sorry we can’t do business.” and leave it at that.

But she shrugged her shoulders and said she’d give it a chance. And so I left the plate with her.

I got call a few hours later (or maybe it was the next day…I can’t remember). The gallery had sold that damned plate, that quickly! The gallery lady was very pleased that she gave the plate a chance!

Talk about coincidence! This cartoon appeared in today’s paper.

How To Price Art

"is 50-50 the most common split? "

Nope, I don’t think I have seen that locally. Usually the store gets 30%, but some places 80%.

Another thing is to let the artist know you would like to buy it but that you can’t afford it at this time & sometimes they give you a better deal or trade.

In the past, I’ve always heard of 50-50 as the most common split, but in the last few years I’ve heard that’s changing.

handy 80% to the gallery? That’s ridiculous. I realize they have expenses and do the promotional work, but still…(I don’t mean I think you’re wrong, just that it’s ridiculous for a gallery to take that much.)

Welcome to Carmel, Califronia, photopat… I think they have 80 art galleries now & Carmel is only a square mile in size…

Well, I left the dude a voicemail but he has yet to return my call.

I’ve decided not to divulge I’ve visited his website and just tell him I’d like to purchase the piece, tell him what the price at Artscape was and ask him what he’ll charge me for shipping.

“Bargainer: It says $100, I’ll offer you $80.
Me: How about $120?
Bargainer: What? You’re supposed to bid inbetween, say $90.
Me: Well then, why don’t you bid inbetween, say $110.”

My mechanic tried that with me once & I never went back to him again or recommended him.

I’d like to go to Carmel sometime handy, I’ve heard it’s beautiful out there and of course, Edward Weston worked around there.

But still…80%?

I once commissioned a piece of jewelry from an artist, I had seen his work in a gallery but wanted something a little bit different. The gallery put me in touch, but bowed out after that. He quoted me a much lower price than his work was selling for in the gallery, and I agreed. When I went to pick it up, I paid him the gallery price - he was astonished. I said I liked it enough to pay that much in the store, so I was happy to be able to give him all of it.

If it was a big plant I wouldn’t mind getting a wholesale deal, but I couldn’t see taking advantage of a starving artist.

I have one piece of fine art. The asking price was $3500, but it was a real “asking” price in the sense that there was not a posted price – I had to ask the artist what she wanted for it.

I didn’t hesitate hesitate to negotiate. Other than my car, it would be the most expensive thing I owned, by a considerable margin. I got no sense that the artist was upset by this.

Nor would I really have cared if she was. Negotiations are an inherent part of any transaction, whether it takes place at the point of sale or not. It’s my money, her art. Why shouldn’t we negotiate an exchange rate, unless the dollar amount is so low that it’s irrelevant to either of us. And how could one of us know what the level of irrelevence level of the other is. I bought it for $750 less than was asked. I was happy with a bargain (in my eyes), and for all I know she chuckled all the way home about how she got the best over me.

And if she wasn’t, she could certainly hold on to it.

What if I was bargaining with some REALLY famous artist who wanted a million dollars for their sculpture? Would it be so horribly insulting to make an offer of 800K? I don’t think so.