The Price is Right: Answers to Top FAQs on Pricing

Artsy Collecting
Jul 23, 2013 5:26PM
One Dollar Bill with Red Nose, 2012
Serpentine Galleries
Dollar Sign, 1981
Dominique Lévy Gallery

I’d asked around 10 to 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, ‘Well, what do you love the most?’ That’s how I started painting money.”— Andy Warhol

Think wisely before reaching into your wallet—Warhol would have. As a new collector, find transparency in the often opaque art market with the following FAQ compiled by our Artsy specialists:

1. May I ask for the price?

Artsy: Yes. Few galleries display the price of their artworks so it’s customary to ask the receptionist at a gallery. At some galleries, a sales director may meet with you to share the price of each work and explain a bit about the artist’s practice.

2. What is the price of artwork by an emerging artist?

Artsy: Unfortunately there is no single price for a new artist’s work. When planning their first gallery exhibition, the artist will work with their gallery representative to determine fair asking prices for the work, which is based on a combination of factors such as the artist’s desired price, the production value, the amount of time that went into creating the artworks, and the level of demand for the work.

3. Should I use auction data to check the price?

Artsy: Although valuable, auction data for contemporary artists is often misleading since those artists don’t have liquid (or established) secondary markets; therefore, these number primarily come from one-off and charity auctions. All artists go through a stage of establishing a secondary market for their works, where there is discrepancy from the gallery prices—and only a small number of artists really make it beyond this point.

If you do use auction data to compare prices, it’s important to make sure that the medium of the work you are considering matches the medium of the work you are comparing it to. The same is true of the dimensions and the year, plus any distinguishing factor, such as an edition size.

4. Why should I buy from a gallery?

Artsy: The advantage of buying from a gallery is access to the whole body of work and the newest series. Additional benefits include supporting the living artist and enabling them to produce more work, getting the piece in pristine condition and framed to your specifications, and developing a relationship with the gallery.

To contact a specialist directly, email [email protected].

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