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  • Lauren Pigford Abbott

Investing in Art

Three ways artists price their art.

You have decided you would like to invest in art. Perhaps you are tired of mass-produced prints that anyone can buy or you want something unique and original from a local artist. You feel now is the time to start looking for the original or custom art for a specific room in your home. Last week I touched on how to choose art for your home. This week I want to share insight on how much one should budget or expect to pay for original art.

Always keep in mind an artist's time and flat rates when shopping for art. Many are shocked by art prices when they first set out to find original art; however, it is important to remember artists are professionals who provide services for clients. Similar to how marketing executives, accountants, and lawyers provide customizable and hourly services for their clients. Artists have a set amount of dollars they are paid for their work like any professional.

Here are three traditional ways artists price out their work.

a. Square inch x dollar amount

b. (Hourly Wage x Hours Spent) + Cost of Materials

c. (Height x Width) x Multiplier

1. Square inch x dollar amount

Here is a breakdown of the Square inch x dollar amount formula. An artist will set a flat rate per square inch. For example. Let's say an artist has a flat rate of $3 per square inch. Here is the formula breakdown:

  1. Size (18 in × 24 in) = 432 square inches

  2. Sq. In x Flat Rate 432 square inches × $3 = $1,296

  3. Numbers Rounded to $1,300

  4. Cost of Materials $100 × 2 = $200

  5. Final cost of original art $1300 + $200 = $1,500

Many emerging artists who are currently selling at art festivals, group shows and are working to increase their clientele and brand will start out at a lower rate per square inch. This is why you can find lower-priced art at art festivals and fairs than at established galleries with well-known and seasoned artists. It is important for an artist to know other artists' range of prices so he or she does not overprice their work.

2. (Hourly Wage x Hours Spent) + Cost of Materials

This is how I personally price my larger pieces of work. I use this method because I am good at keeping up with the number of hours I spend painting my large works of art. For the artist who uses this formula, they must set an hourly wage for their time. Here is the breakdown:

  1. Hourly wage: $45

  2. 15 hours spent on the piece of art

  3. 45 x 15 = $675

  4. Cost of Materials $100 × 2 = $200

  5. The final cost of the original art $875

Obviously, a smaller piece of art will have fewer hours than a larger piece of art. I do price my commission prices based on the estimated amount of hours it will take to complete the work depending on size.

3. (Height + Width) x Multiplier

This method of pricing art is easier for buyers to understand. Sometimes the price per square inch and hourly wage can be disputed by potential buyers, especially if they feel the artist has overpriced his or her rate. This method takes away buyers' perception of an artist's value.

Here is the breakdown of this formula used by many artists:

For a 32 × 32-inch painting at $20 per linear inch (multiplier):

  1. 32 + 32 = 64 linear inches

  2. 64 linear inches × $20 = $1,280

No matter the formula an artist uses to price his or her work there are several things that go into coming up with artists' rates. These are three formulas you can use to help determine the approximate costs of your new art. I recommend determining the size of the art you will be searching for and determine if you can invest in an emerging artist's work who traditionally has a lower flat rate per square inch or by the hour, or an established artist's work who has premium sq inch and hourly rates.

If you have any questions regarding art buying and investing then please let me know. Next week I will highlight our recently completed, custom-built console.

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