This past month, I had work in a group show in downtown Phoenix. It was a great experience, and I was happy to show my work for the first time since my solo BFA show. Even more awesome- I had some interest from buyers in a large triptych of mine that I honestly never thought of selling. Not so awesome, one person who approached me did it in a, quite frankly, insulting way.
Now, these being large oil paintings, the price on them was appropriately set. I’m no dummy, I understand that not everyone, hell, most everyone, can afford a rather pricey triptych. Regardless, the price is what it is. Basically, I encountered an individual who had no respect for my (more than reasonable and competitive!) pricing.
Now, If someone is really, truly interested, I’m willing to be as accommodating as I can in offering a payment plan, a smaller commission, or even a small (SMALL!) discount on the purchase of multiple works. If they’re nice.
This individual wasn’t mean, per se, they just had a very entitled attitude. Basically, they offered to pay me 40% of the asking price. Yes, less than HALF of what I was asking for. They said that affordability was an issue for them, of course, and asked for my thoughts. I offered them all of my accommodations listed above, including the small discount. I also explained that I could not offer such a deep discount as I had to keep my pricing consistent with my gallery (as giving buyers a disincentive from buying from your gallery is a GREAT way to ruin a gallery relationship.) They curtly message me back offering 50% of my original asking price. Um, no.
I mean, you encounter so many things in life that you may want but can’t afford. One of those things may be my art – and that’s incredibly flattering. But it’s also not my job to cut into my own wage – my payment for my work, to make what in many ways amounts to a luxury item affordable to you. This person’s attitude just reflects an entitlement and an ignorance of the fact that being an artist and producing great artwork that people actually want to buy in the first place involves incredible skill and expertise, time, equipment, and accompanying financial risk. Artists don’t pull their prices out of their ass.
The worst part is so many artists don’t realize this, especially emerging ones like me. Thus, they may feel pressured into caving to lowballers out of desperation to make a sale. And that’s a supremely shitty situation to put someone who is already financially struggling in. Asking an already struggling artist for a discount most would reserve only to their closest friends comes across as incredibly arrogant.
So, inexperienced art buyers, please respect the prices of artwork, ESPECIALLY those of emerging artists. Understand what you can and can’t afford. And if you do see someone’s pricy magnum opus and fall in love, it never hurts to ask an artist if they have any more affordable work, like small paintings or sketches, available. In fact, most emerging artists would probably love that. Simply respect the artist and the value their work over the shallow desire for a “bargain.” If the latter is what you want, I’d suggest avoiding art galleries and instead taking your business to the local swap meet.