Embracing Negotiation in Art Sales: Insights from a Veteran Gallerist

Today I want to share some valuable insights into a critical aspect of the art world – negotiation and discounts. Having been in the gallery world since 1993, I’ve honed the art of negotiation, an integral part of my sales process. Through this post, I aim to demystify negotiation and discuss how it can be a powerful tool for artists.

Negotiation: A Controversial yet Essential Tool

It’s not uncommon for artists and gallerists to have mixed feelings about negotiation. Some view it as undermining the value of art, while others see it as a necessary part of the sales process. My perspective, shaped by decades of experience, is that negotiation, when used effectively, can significantly benefit artists.

Preparing for Negotiation: Setting the Stage

The success of negotiation often hinges on preparation. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your pricing structure and the maximum discount you can offer without affecting your profitability. A buffer of around 20% is a good starting point. This approach not only ensures your comfort during the negotiation but also protects the value of your art.

The Negotiation Process: A Client-Centered Approach

In most art sales, negotiation is initiated by the client. This interaction is an opportunity to showcase your sales skills and understand the client’s perspective. When a client inquires about pricing flexibility, it’s essential to have a well-thought-out response. A written offer outlining the retail price, additional costs, and the discounted price can be a powerful tool in concluding a sale successfully.

Implementing Discounts and Promotional Sales

Discounts and promotional sales are often used proactively to encourage art purchases. While they can be effective, it’s important to use them judiciously to avoid creating an impression of constant low pricing. Instead, focus on special occasions or slower sales periods to offer these incentives. Additionally, offering incentives like free shipping can sometimes clinch a deal without needing to lower the artwork’s price.

Balancing Full Price Sales and Negotiations

The ultimate goal is to sell art at the highest price possible. Remember, most sales will likely happen at full price. Negotiation should be viewed as a tool to increase sales volume without significantly impacting profitability. The key is to strike a balance between protecting the value of your art and being flexible to close more sales.

Practical Tips for Artists

  1. Build a Buffer: Include a reasonable buffer in your pricing to allow for negotiation without compromising your profit margin.
  2. Be Prepared: Have a clear strategy for how you will handle negotiation requests.
  3. Use Written Offers: When negotiating, present a written offer to the client showing the original price, additional costs, such as tax or shipping expenses, and the discounted price.
  4. Offer Incentives Judiciously: Use discounts or special offers strategically, focusing on slower sales periods or special occasions.
  5. Maintain Value: Aim to sell at full price whenever possible, using negotiation as a tool to increase sales volume rather than as a primary sales strategy.
  6. Stay Professional: Remember, negotiation is a standard business practice. Don’t take it personally.


Negotiation and discounts are nuanced aspects of the art selling process. By understanding and mastering these elements, you can enhance your sales strategy, ensuring both profitability and client satisfaction.

I invite artists to share their experiences and perspectives on negotiation and discounts. How have you navigated these aspects in your art sales? What strategies have worked for you? Share your experience in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Good points and a helpful approach. It is somewhat difficult not to take it personally nevertheless. But if it adds another sale or two then worthwhile

  2. I find that most requests for a reduced price on a painting come at art fairs. I have never felt insulted by the request to reduce the price but I usually don’t go below 15% off. This allows me to earn what I want and it make the client feel good about the purchase. That being said, I have seldom had such a request.

    I also show my work in a co-op gallery and have never had a request for price reduction on a sale in the gallery. Perhaps it is because the “feel” is different in the gallery that at an art fair.

    Thanks, Jason, for addressing this topic. I found your post useful and informative.

  3. I have had only two such request from buyers. Both times the price for the painting was $800. The first time was a painting that was hung in our local hospital. The gallery that sponsor the hospital art contacted me saying a buyer was interested but wanted to now if I could come down on the price. The piece was nice but I had very little time and material invested in the piece. I told the gallery representative to offer $700. The buyer agreed and purchased the piece. The second time time was a large cocktail painting that hung in a local high end cocktail lounge (next to my studio). It had been there for over a year – primarily covering an ugly electrical panel at the end of the bar. I received a message from El Paso, Texas (I live in the Pacific Northwest) saying that the buyer had just been in our town visiting and went to the lounge and “fell in love” with the painting. She asked if I could cover shipping? I agreed and the painting now lives in El Paso. In both cases the buyers sent me photos of my paintings in their new homes. I did not feel I compromised the worth of my work and I know each painting is in a good home.

  4. always be prepared to walk away from a sale. as both a gallery owner and artist negotiation is a part of business if you take it personally then get out. that having been said i am used to dealing at a relatively high level of economics where negotiation does not affect material survival.

  5. I’m always willing to negotiate as there is a cushion built into the price. Usually a discount of 10 percent is all it takes for the buyer to feel that he has made a good deal- or to feel that he has been in control of the sale.

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