Advice on exhibition pricing, please.

edited February 17 in General Discussion
I don't generally exhibit.   I have entered one local exhibition in my lifetime.  That was 14 years ago.  I sold the work on the opening night.  It was roughly A4 size (a bit bigger) oil on canvas and sold for $400 (commission came out of that).

Move on to 2022.
I have begun painting again, done my calendar series which I sold locally and have had some greeting cards printed.  I did 2 commissions (both just over A4 size on canvas and board), which I deliberately undercharged for in the hope they would get me started painting again (It worked!) and bring in more work (Failure!).  I charged $250 for one and $300 for the other.

The same local exhibition entries close today.   Prices are required on the entry form.

I am entering 2 paintings, one I have posted here before, but have since framed behind (spaced) glass, to be able to hang it.   It is an oil on A3 gessoed/gessod (?) watercolour paper.   The other is one I posted about today in the paintings section.   I have some tweaking yet to do on the canvas one.  It will not be framed, but will be hung.

What price to ask for each is a real quandary.  There is a 20% commission charge.

At the moment I am wavering on $650 for the framed one.  That would give me $520 in hand.   Framing locally would have cost me $100.  I used a frame I already had and bought cheap card as a border, (Yes, the colour is "interesting", however, with limited choice locally, it was the best match).

The canvas one is larger.  600mm x 500mm (is that 24"x 20"?)  I think it is worth more that $800, but what do I know?   I do know my horses have a better under drawing to them than many horse art works.    I know my anatomy of horses is fairly good.  As far as I am aware, there is no one in my local vicinity doing what I do.   That being said, until I become known, can I ask over $1000 for my works?   I wondered if perhaps $750 in the hand ($900 at the exhibition)would be fair?  Could I stretch it to $950 exhibition price?  Should I go under that and accept even less in the hand, like $680 which would be $850 to the buyer?

Other equine artists in NZ seem to range from $1000  to $4000 for similar sized works, but many of them are quite abstracted or a semi realistic horse on an abstract background.

Any advice is welcomed.


  • toujours

    Suggest charging at your initial rate of $4.30 per sq in. This calculates to $834 for the A3 and $2064 for the 20 x 24. Adding commission >>> $1063 for the A3 and $2580 for the 20 x 24.

  • Thank you very much for that.  That is a great help.  I am ever so grateful for that.   It gives me a realistic ball park to work from.    I have been so very confused in the things I have been reading online.

    After posting this I did email the organisers for the range of prices the get and the average sales prices.  I was told the range is $150-$3000 with most works selling for $300-$600.  I had been second guessing myself the thinking I should drop my prices further.  Alternatively, I do not want to undercut other artists by setting a lower price.

    I am really grateful for your suggestions.
  • @toujours
    Don't undercut yourself. Be realistic. Pricing by the inch or the hour is a fools game. 

    Using the price range given ask yourself what you want. Consider the commission. Add a bit more than you want to help cover the commission.

    Example: You'd like $400. The commission is 30% or $120. That would give you $280 in hand. 
    so add $150 to the desired $400 price. Minus commission $550 - 30% = $385. More like what you feel it's worth.

    You have to be able to read the market. Are there high priced exhibitions in your area? Is everything low priced. It's hard and ever changing.
  • Thank you @KingstonFineArt,
    I had a long think last night and I even read something about art being like real estate.  The same house would have different values in different suburbs or parts of the country.  I took that into consideration as well.  This area is a medium sized country town at the bottom of the world.  This is the only local exhibition and is held once every 2 years.  Due to Covid, it is also quite difficult to predict prices.  To that end, although I appreciated @dencal's suggestion, I have chosen to go on the conservative side and did a similar thing to what you suggested above.  I worked out the lowest I would take, added $50 to that and the commission on top.  If I give them away too cheaply, it will give me a ballpark for my next painting to go up from there.  If I sell direct next time, I can have that extra commission in my pocket as such.

    Perhaps no one will buy them anyway?
    Perhaps it is time for me to begin thinking of joining facebook?
    Perhaps it is also time for me to work out what I would need from a website and start one?

    Perhaps I should just paint more and improve my work...?

  • My thinking is it is easier to raise prices than it is to drop them.  
    No matter what you decide, I agree paint more and try to make each painting better than the last. 
  • Toujours, you'll need to price it to the market you have there. When you first start selling it's best, in my experience, to keep the prices not cheap but moderately low. Then, as your work gets known you can raise them gradually.  If the price is too high for the market you have there it won't sell. Better to get a little less than you would like than to not sell. 
  • Thanks @GTO.  Yes, there is always room for improving one's skill set.

    @tassieguy, you are saying just what my sibling did on the phone the other day!!  A point doubled must be a point worth taking!!
  • folks

    All very well approaching pricing with a risk averse, abundance of caution model.
    ‘However, let me remind you that paintings, more than any other purchase, are bought with the heart and definitely not with the head. 

    Within the lowest or highest price discussed here will make no difference when the teen girl says “Daddy, look at that lovely shine in that horses eye”.

    Social psychologist Robert Cialdini suggests that in some cases, businesses can actually increase their sales by raising prices. The reason behind this surprising phenomenon, he revealed in a recent podcast interview, is that in “markets in which people are not completely sure of how to assess quality, they use price as a stand-in for quality.” While most customers wouldn’t pay $20 for paper towels because it’s easy to compare them to other products on the store shelves, it’s much harder to evaluate certain categories of products or services.

    Art is notoriously challenging – what makes a Damien Hirst sell for millions while a similar piece by someone else might languish? Consulting or other professional services are also hard to compare, because practitioners may have different approaches or skill levels, so you’re not comparing apples to apples. Thus, says Cialdini, “especially when they’re not very confident about being able to discern quality in their own right, people who are unfamiliar with a market will be especially led by price increases to go in that direction [and purchase more expensive offerings].”

    Pricing is such an important signifier, says Cialdini, that “organizations will sometimes raise their prices and as a consequence, will be seen as the quality leader in their market,” regardless of whether they’ve upgraded their offerings.

    Consider the alternative, a low price that barely covers costs means that your family bears the expense.
    Think about the opportunity cost of your time and studio.

    What’s to lose if there are no buyers at one venue >>> private sales, eBay, Gumtree, library, cafe, doctors waiting room, art fairs, sidewalk sales . . . 

    A per square inch valuation maintains consistency, can easily be adjusted for the years as a professional artist. Standardised fees for giclees, rolled canvas, stretched canvas, glazing and framing means these costs are not borne by the artist. A per sq in model eliminates the anxiety keenly felt by toujours.

    A per sq in model is very appropriate for spreadsheet and database. Customer tracking, profit estimation, cost containment, taxation, insurance, police info for stolen items. . . . 


  • edited February 18
    @dencal,  I think I understand what you are saying, however, I don't think I am quite brave enough at this point in time to have quite such courage in my convictions.   I suppose, in a way, I am treating this as a market appraisal situation.

    I do appreciate that higher prices can elicit more attention and a feeling of a quality purchase in a buyer, but then again, the internet is flooded with high priced rubbish, so the 2 do not always go hand in hand.

    Over Christmas and New Year I took some of my calendars (images of oil paintings of old local buildings with horses and carts representing the 1st 50 years of my town's inception) to the market.    I had some people tell me they were $10 more expensive than the generic (made in China?) calendars in the local newsagent and they would therefore not buy them.    Consumer choice; sure.   Others were happy to buy, and to come back the next market for more.    It made me wonder; what price do you put on something that will entertain you every single day for an entire year?  People are happy to spend $30 plus having lunch out and the pleasure of that lasts as long as the taste buds hold the flavour, yet the same people will not spend $25 on a calendar they profess to like?   Same with a painting.  What price for something you will have longer than your bed lasts, longer than your car lasts, and longer than many marriages last?  So, of late, I find I end up second guessing the value of all the art I am trying to do.

    I think that pricing systems may be quite fluid over an individual artist's career.    What suits in one area or at one stage; may not suit if the artist shifts town, changes lifestyle or job prospects alter.
    The points you make about the customer tracking, insurance, etc....makes a lot of sense.  It may be that I end up making calculations such as you suggest at another time. 

    I think, for this time, I will just dip my toe in the water and see if the water is warm enough to plunge in.    Hopefully the sharks seen locally in our harbour don't frequent too many art exhibitions!
  • toujors

    Sure, by all means, price at your comfort level.

    Let me put some perspective in this discussion.

    I have never sold a painting. Both Rob and Kingston are experienced and seasoned artists in the current market. They have good advice for your situation.

    I just would like a more rational and logical approach to pricing that takes the psychology of the market into account. It is a tragedy to see good work given away for peanuts whilst “high priced rubbish” flourishes.


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