Ask a Gallery Owner: “Should I lower my art prices during an economic slowdown?”

In this Ask A Gallery Owner video I answer a question from Anne on the east coast:

For the first time in my career, sales have slowed to a grueling stop in all shows and galleries. I can only assume it’s due to the economic downturn that’s going on since sales have been good before now.

Is it advisable for an artist to lower prices during a recession, or should we just be patient and wait for the economy to improve?

Watch my response 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.

20 Comments

  1. I’m bumping up my once a month newsletter to twice a month, as you suggested in the ABA visit this morning. I don’t want my readers to forget me when it’s time to purchase art again!

  2. Wow, is this timely! Last year I volunteered at the gallery that sells my fiber wildlife paintings in exchange for a reduction in the commission. I had a very good year and decided to stop volunteering and just focus on my work; so the commission increased from 30% to 40% on each sale. Now, my expenses have gone up at least 15% (frames, wool, etc) and my sales have tanked – so I reduced my prices by about 30% hoping to encourage sales.

    This morning I checked at the gallery and nothing has sold for quite a while. I was very discouraged and debating what to do… raise my prices back where they were originally? Increase the prices to adjust for the commission and expense increases? Or leave them where they are although my net is minimal? At what point am I outpricing my customers? (My work sells for $300-$400 usually) It is a quandary for me.

    I know I am only one of many, many artists dealing with this now. I will take your advice, Jason, and continue to create art but I am so unsure of how to price for this market. Thank you for encouraging us to keep working away, and to keep things in perspective over the long run.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I can certainly understand how you are feeling, as many artists are struggling with similar issues right now.

      It sounds like you are doing everything you can to adjust to the current market conditions, and I think that is the best approach. It can be difficult to know exactly how to price your work, but I think it is important to keep in mind that your prices should be based on the value of your work, not on the cost of your materials or the commission you are paying.

      I encourage you to continue working toward more exposure. As you get better venues to show your work, the pricing will move upward and your margins will improve.

  3. Great topic Jason. I’m pretty new to the game. My last decent sale was about a year ago when I sold 4 pieces to 1 collector – which was invigorating and exciting. I had a “friends+family summer studio sale” and sold a couple pieces at severely discounted prices. I did an outside festival and only made one sale (again, VERY discounted). Since then: crickets. I’ve continued to produce work, but have started to cull out and destroy (to the cries of my “friends”) a lot of early work. For me, it’s easier to create if the backlog of material isn’t taking up physical and emotional space. I’m hoping it’s just because I don’t have gallery representation yet (you know – work hanging in an actual “store” that sells fine art to people who are in the market for it.) Many galleries in my area have closed. I try to freshen up my website regularly. Trying to stay busy and positive…

    1. Getting momentum going can definitely be a challenge Jean. Celebrate the sales you have had and keep hustling to find representation and build relationships with new potential collectors. Stay tuned here for insights to help you do both!

    1. Another good point, although I have had an artist make a downward price adjustment in the past, and her collectors didn’t even seem to notice. We’re all much more tuned into pricing than most of our collectors are.

  4. Referencing a comment I heard / read in this space recently is that art is a luxury item that is purchased with disposable income. The folks who have discretionary funds to purchase my work won’t care if the price of one of my paintings is now $ 850.00 instead of $ 1,000.00. They are either going to love the piece and spend the money or not. That same price difference will not make any difference to someone who may like my work but doesn’t have this discretionary funds to purchase this, even at the discounted price. I have also heard from gallery owners in the past that once you lower your prices and the buyer is aware of this, it’s almost impossible to raise them back up to the original $ level.

    1. Exactly right. There are obviously limits to this logic – we couldn’t raise prices by 50% and expect it not to have an impact on sales for an artist, but time spent monkeying with prices would be better spent promoting and relationship building.

  5. Thank you. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing: working as usual. It’s good to hear affirmation.

  6. When the economy has a turndown, which happens every ten years or so, I often have the impulse to reduce prices, give work away, and abandon ship. But yours was a very reassuring message. The painting behind you looks like something I might have done.

  7. Wonderful advice, Jason. The best nugget is to not spending everything you make. Have a cushion and save for the ups and downs of the art market. Building up an inventory of fresh work is vital to survival in all markets. Thinking upstream and adjusting. I am happy to say sales are still happening with lots of hustle and working outside my comfort zone. I have not and will not lower my prices. My galleries and clients have invested in my work, I owe it to them not to devalue their investment.

  8. I think your advice about keeping creating is good but I’m shifting to smaller pieces and standard sizes for now so inventory isn’t overwhelming and framing can be done as needed. However I can’t resist having a big project on my studio easel so I try to slow my pace a bit on that. I’m taking the opportunity to enter some juried shows that I might have ignored if sales were better… only reputable ones of course.

  9. Thank you, Jason, for another inspiring and informative video. Inspiring as your message is to keep at it, don’t let the times or challenges get me down, and plan and act accordingly. I’m in an art show on the west coast, offering large scale framed digital photographs of geometric art, and I have seen my sales stop. For many of my fellow artists at this art fair, sales are also down and most sales appear to be less than $200. This is below my reasonable price point for an unframed, matted 17 x 22 signed limited edition print. For me, it may be the locale I am at (visits are down), the economic challenges we are seeing, and the price point for my fine art prints has reduced my potential buyer pool. I plan to take your advice and sit on my prices and if sales remain stagnant this summer, keep my antennae out to try and assess why, and adjust accordingly moving forward.

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