The BBC’s recent excuse for a show ‘Show Me The Monet’ (if ever an idea was generated by the title arriving first, that’s it) was a sort of Dragon’s Den meet
. Artists showed their work to a panel of (supposed) experts, and looking directly into their cold dead eyes, named their price. School of Saatchi
The Artdragon’s then said yes. Or – more usually, no. One candidate was still studying at the RCA. With a knowing sneer indicative of: “We’ve got a right one here,” the host introduced the first challenger, who had set his price at (wait for it…) £50,000!
Asked to justify this, he said unabashed words to the effect that he was an excellent artist, would one day be hugely famous, highly collectable, and art-lovers should snap him up. Then came the silence. The panel were aghast. They all said no, but you could sense that they admired his spirit, even as they spluttered a refusal.
I like that attitude. Pricing work is always so hard. I have been asked to put a price on my work several times, and never know what to say. How do you value art? The more beautiful it is, the more you can pay? And does size matter? Apparently, it does: larger pieces make more money, unless they are too big, in which case they might not sell at all.
Do you take into account the time taken to make a piece of work. If that was the case, then some of my text embroideries take months. So by that logic, I should sell for shed loads of money. It’s also hard to time how long something takes. My hand-tinted photomontages can actually take ages to make, as I layer the colour gradually, wait for ink to dry etc, but I suppose they do not look expensive (whatever that means.)
Funnily enough, I understand that some artists adopt gasp-inducing pre-emptive pricing as a ploy to avoid selling work, because emerging artists need the money, but do not have much work to sell. Tricky. And then you’ve got galleries taking a hefty slice - I’ve seen commissions of up to 40% being mentioned.
Artists must aim at their market level, that is, if nobody’s heard of you, they won’t pay loads of money for a small, rough sketch. Oil paints are really expensive, but if you cover a massive canvass, how can you cover your outlay?
When I had work in an exhibition, I had to settle on a price, just in case one of those desirable sticky dots might be placed on my work. What a nightmare: the medium was photomontage hand-tinted with ink, pastels and even felt pens. The paper was thin and exactly A4 size the frame was plain and basic. I grabbed a number from the air – no harm done as no offers were made. But what if someone actually wants to sell or buy my work?
I’m going to have to sort this out, ready for the day when my genius is recognised.