Do you really want art to be a bargain?

So did you get caught up in the Black Friday mayhem last week? The consumerist Christmas binge day when we’re all encouraged to bag a bargain. Or did you remember that a bargain is only good value if you really wanted it in the first place?

Whenever we spend money we’re asking ourselves:

What benefit will this bring to my life? Do I want this so much that I am prepared to spend this amount in order to get it?

It’s the same decision, whether you’re working out the difference between basic and Heston mince pies, or if this new coat is worth it in terms of warmth and what plesaure it will bring me. Pleasure has to be an important part of the equation. Without a doubt you can make yourself a coffee at home for a fraction of the cost you will pay in a cafe, and yet the morning queues prove there is more to it than simple economics. It’s a small way you can treat yourself day. You choose what brings you pleasure.

We all love a discount – or do we?

Last week I was standing behind a lady buying children’s clothes. Previously she had bought a coat for her son, on Black Friday the same coat was being sold for 50% less. Her disappointment was palpable. She clearly had the sense that she had somehow been diddled out of her money by the shop not being honest with its pricing and upcoming sale.

While most people don’t buy art for investment, you still want to feel it’s a fair exchange. If you see a comparable piece of artwork on sale for 50% off at the end of the exhibition you would be rightly miffed – you certainly wouldn’t show up on Private View night next time round! Discounting art is a real no-no. Start with fair prices and allow these to grow gently as demand and knowledge of your work grows.

Profit margins – what profit margins?

Black Friday is traditionally the day that shops start to make a profit. Yes, it takes almost a whole year to cover their costs and go from red to black. Most businesses have a clearly defined idea of the cost the overheads and the direct costs associated with producing each particular item they are selling. Unfortunately pricing art isn’t quite as straightforward. How do I cost the hours spent in life class, the time spent drawing on family holidays, or even allow for the ones that don’t work and end up in the selective discard. (Yes, we all have these… even Turner had a few discarded works forgotten in his studio – wonder how he would feel about them ending up in the Tate alongside the ones he had finished and ‘approved’)

In fact if you added up all the hours involved it can be a somewhat gloomy undertaking – best not to approach art as a money-making proposition. Unless you’re Damian Hirst. I always go from the start point of wanting to be able to offer original work at a fair price. A price that’s fair to me as the artist, and to you as the buyer. In fact the very last thing I want you to be thinking about each time you look at it, is how much it cost you. It has to feel so right that you forget about the price and enjoy the benefit.

Trust your instinct on value

I know someone who is an art dealer and runs funds where people can chip in to buy pieces of artwork that then sit in a safe  accumulating value. Nothing makes me feel sadder. For me, art only has a value if someone loves it. I enjoy selling my work not just because it brings some income but because I know that each person who buy something has made a decision that having this piece of  artwork on their wall will bring them enough joy to make it worth spending the money on it.  I don’t mind that sometimes they have to debate this – it’s not always an easy decision.  I will do whatever I can to help this: at my last exhibition somebody paid in instalments.  Every person who has bought a piece from me is valued and appreciated. Everyone who shows an interest and supports what I do is valued and appreciated.

Ultimately its about what things are worth to you. We make this decision all the time when we shop and yet when it comes to buying art people have a nervousness – don’t be nervous!  There is no need – trusting your instinct that is the only way to decide whether something is right for you.

If it seems expensive maybe you just don’t love it enough. Getting a discount won’t help.  And that’s fine –  move on and wait until you find something you really want to spend your money on. It may not be a bargain discount, but it will bring a value that you treasure.


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