Ask a Gallery Owner | Should Galleries (and Artists) Display Pricing With Artwork?

This week I answer a question about whether galleries ought to post prices with artwork on display in the gallery.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments in the comments section below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

19 Comments

  1. I’m just thinking about the two primary aspects of an art gallery (or website). “Art” and “money”. I’m realizing that commerce is such that the two are joined. Both, I’m thinking are maybe not the most comfortable conversations to have.
    One can easily think, ” I really don’t know art, but I kind of like this piece. What do I say?”
    One can equally easily think, “I really don’t know how to value art, but I kind of like this piece. What do I say?”
    In both instances, I’ve had those conversations and they always seem to start from a kind of super cautious position so as not to insult the artist or the client.

    If we artists have done our homework, and have had a bit of conversation with prospective clients and maybe a gallery owner, the pricing should be rather stable. What keeps one from posting it? It’s going to come up at some point anyway.
    Just my thoughts as the new website edges closer to being live.

  2. Thank you Jason for this wise advice about pricing. I struggle with price tags as sometimes it looks like a garage sale. I’ve done both tags and price sheets as an artist exhibiting and as a buyer. As an artist I like either … and it depends on the venue for me. Small venue – price sheets – large: price tags that are not distracting. As a buyer/collector I like knowing the price as soon as I fall in love. As far as not being able to afford it, I like offering and having a payment plan. Re: prices on websites – i have a store but only able to list 10. So i usually don’t put prices. Nancy

  3. Thank you for this timely advice. I am just starting a website, and was wondering about this very question. I’ve seen other artists not post the prices and thought it didn’t look so “commercial,” which is good.
    However, I am not an established artist, so went with the prices so as not to put another layer of time/interaction to a possible sale.

  4. The struggle here is in
    conflicting the urge to create
    with the act of making money.
    Call it what you will, but never
    will capitalism become art.

  5. I think your response is spot on. I am an artist, but I also love to buy art. I don’t have a giant budget to purchase art, so if the price is not displayed, I do assume I can’t afford it. It’s embarrassing and awkward to ask for a price only to find it is way of my range.

  6. Unless you’re selling a high-end car with a multitude of accessories, or models, showing the basic price is about all you’re capable of doing.
    People will come onto your booth or in a gallery for only a few reasons. They can be time wasters or dedicated art lovers in search for a piece. The majority wish to look quietly and be left unmolested by sales patter – and the rest, welcome delayed interaction from the artist or gallery owner. After many years of exhibiting, I have developed the knack to read the body language, and let me tell you – it isn’t rocket science.
    I’m seeing an increasing amount of artists who have taken their leads from some witch doctor who has somehow convinced them that a visual struggle is the best way for any potential buyer to convince themselves that you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

    If you think that a lack of any information, other than the title, is going to entice buyers to inquire about the price, please think again. Many potential buyers wish to retain a certain anonymity by quietly walking around and mentally taking notes of the ones they might want to return to for a closer look – and possible sales.
    Having to ask the artist anything at the earliest stage is going to appear as an opportunity for that artist to make that sales jump.

    So, forget being Mr / Mrs / Miss ‘ Ditzy Mystery’ and place a properly produced tag which is readable from at least three feet, with the title, size (possibly medium) and the price.

    Arthur Benjamins – Peoria – AZ

  7. Personally, as an artist I would never have my art in a gallery that did not show the price tag. As an art lover and collector I would walk right out of a gallery that did not show price tags. The question of whether or not to show prices is ridiculous. Why would the art be in the gallery if it was not for sale? Why would a gallery owner try to manipulate a potential buyer into conversation by only having a price list? A person will fall in love, or not, with a piece and then can think for themselves as to whether they can afford it. And with all due respect, Jason, I agree with Miriam….I would prefer to read your reply.

  8. As a buyer, the only reason I can think a gallery would NOT show pricing on art is to manipulate me in some way, either by pretentiously assuming a superior attitude in an attempt to inflate value or by forcing me into a “conversation,” i.e., a sales pitch. Ugh. Neither of those strategies is going to encourage me to buy.

    Again speaking as a buyer, I have two concerns: does the work move me? does it fit my budget? The work itself provides the first answer, and it is the seller’s job to provide the second as clearly as possible. A discrete card or hang-tag does just that.

    As a seller, I often have people ask me the price on items which are clearly marked; they are often simply inviting conversation and providing me the opportunity to talk as an artist and creator about my process, inspiration, tools and media, etc.

  9. I agree that prices should be displayed. That said, I am a beginner in the world of selling paintings, and setting a price is a challenge. It seems so arbitrary. As is typical of a beginner, I was anxious about what to ask, fearful to ask too much. My first sale was a commission, and I hesitated to set a price. When I finally did, my client, who is also a friend, insisted on twice as much! She felt it was worth more than what I was asking and offered what she could pay!

    It makes sense to base the price on the amount of time and workmanship that goes into a piece. Perfecting my first few paintings took a great deal more time than I think it should take, and hence, the price that was offered began to not seem nearly so much!

    As I produce more, it will become easier and go quicker. So should the price be less because I am not well known, and increase with demand for my work? That seems logical. And as more is produced, the time it takes to produce it will be less. So the income will improve, as the work improves! Seems like a great deal.

    And here’s a question; once a price is displayed, is it common to negotiate with a buyer who wants to pay less? I’ve heard you talk about that. So it seems logical to price high, knowing you can go less; but never to price low; you cannot go higher! Or, has anyone had that happen, been offered more for a piece than you originally asked?

    So that brings me to one more comment, in favor of not posting prices. That is, feeling out the buyer, finding what they want to pay, and negotiating a price. Of course, that may seem a little shady, and it would probably not be my choice. I think prices should be set, and posted next the piece with all the other pertinent details, just as Jason said.

  10. In a gallery, discreet price tags should definitely be displayed next to every piece. As a collector, I know there’s no point in getting seriously interested in a piece, however much I might like it, if it is clearly something I can’t afford.

    If I have to ask about the price, then the conversation immediately becomes about the price and not about the art. And if it turns out that it’s beyond my current budget, do I lie and say I don’t like it, or embarrass myself by saying I can’t afford it?

    But as an artist, I have a different dilemma regarding my website. From time to time over the past few years, I have raised my prices as my work becomes better known. Since I have many paintings on my website, each with its own caption (title and size), if the caption also included the price I would have to laboriously go through and change every single caption when I change my prices.

    So my website compromise is to have a “price list” tab which lists painting sizes with the corresponding prices. That does require the customer to take the added step of clicking on the price list tab, but when I change the prices I only have to revise the price list, not every single painting.

    I always keep my prices consistent for each size of painting. For instance, all 9″x12″ paintings will be the same price, and all 30″x30″ paintings will be the same price, regardless of which particular painting I like better, or how long it took me to paint it.

    My artist mentor explained pricing thus: Just because you like one painting better doesn’t mean that your client will like the same one better. And just because one took you longer to paint doesn’t necessarily make it a better painting, nor mean that the client will like it more. By keeping the prices the same for the same size painting, the price becomes a neutral factor and they can make a choice based on how much they love the piece.

  11. Beautiful! Everyone should be treated with kindness, respect and friendliness! Most galleries ignore me when I come in to view the work! Your ideas are always based on wisdom….so rare today! Win/Win!

  12. Not posting the price in a physical gallery is playing a game with the viewer. It actually forces a conversation about price (rather than about the art), since the only way a viewer can find out how much an artwork is is to ask a sales person in the gallery. Then it becomes a seller/buyer scenario, and the viewer develops mistrust of the seller. The art is lost now.

    Don’t play games with your art! If it is for sale, post the dang price!

  13. Every thing that we buy has a price tag. Homes, cars, home decor, tools and what ever else. Cynthia said it well. No body wants to feel embarrassed by asking a price if they are not be able to buy it. While art is a product, much different what I mentioned above, it is a product. PRICE IT !!!

  14. Speaking for myself, I prefer the price be displayed along with the artwork. I can then immediately know if this piece is within my budget. I can then look at it more in depth, if its in my price range. If its not displayed, I will walk on, as I do not wish to be engaged by a salesperson.

    When I hang my own artwork, I display prices, alongside. It’s my experience that if someone wants that piece of artwork, they will seek you out, whether the price is there or not.

    I agree with you, Jason, for all your reasons are making sense.

    Thank you.

  15. I held two “pop-up” art shows in 2017. For the first one, I prepared printed price lists (thinking people could take them home and consider buying later). During the show, I noticed that people were not always picking up the price lists.
    After the show one man called me and asked shyly, “Are your paintings for sale?” I was shocked to realize that I had assumed that everyone knew the “rules” of art shows. I sold him his favorite painting over the phone and delivered it later than night.
    For the second pop-up event, each piece had an elegant card on the right, with title and value. As per custom, I added red dots when items sold. I made more than twice as much money at the second show.

  16. I agree with Portia, that not posting prices gives the impression of trying to manipulate the potential buyer. I am a fairly new artist. I saw a booth at an art show last year where nothing was priced. I actually stopped to ask the artist why. His answer was rather muddled, and I absolutely felt he was trying to force viewers to talk to him and would price after deciding what someone might pay. I observed that his forcing people to ask was really turning them off — I know it did me! I saw most simply leave the booth without talking to him even though a number of his paintings were excellent.

    I have priced all my artwork on my new website, and also priced all at an open house/studio last year where I sold 10 paintings.

  17. I agree with Jason. Please display the price with your art. I have walked into galleries where there is no price on the art, I immediately assume that I probably cannot afford any of the art if it is that exclusive, so I leave right away and do not engage with anyone, I would be uncomfortable asking for a price and finding it out of my range, kind of put on the spot. I also get the feeling in some galleries, that the customer is assessed, and then the price is given accordingly. This may be unfair to say, but it is definitely the feeling I get. I am an artist, and at the smaller venues where my art is displayed the price is on a discreet card with the other pertinent information.

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