Negotiating and Discounting to Sell Your Art

The title of this post might make you shudder. Many artists bristle at the concept that an artist or gallery might discount the retail price of a piece of art in order to make a sale. I’ve written on this subject before, and the discussion always generates passionate discussion. I recently had a lively discussion with an artist on the subject which got me thinking about the topic again. This artist made some great arguments against discounting and put me through the paces. In the end of the discussion, I’m not sure that either of us was swayed fully to the other’s side, but we both had something to think about.

While I don’t have a recording of the discussion, I would like to try and reproduce some of it here as best I recollect it. Just know that I’m paraphrasing and probably even dramatizing and fictionalizing some of the discussion (of course my answers are going to be better after I’ve had time to think more about it and write them down). I’ve also added some questions that I’ve heard from other artists. To be fair to my interlocutor, I encourage you to help his arguments in the comments below.

 

Artist: Discounting or negotiation of any kind devalues my artwork. I’ve set a fair price for the work – a price that is competitive and reasonable. If I discount, I’m undercutting the value of my artwork.

Many buyers, especially seasoned collectors, come to the market with an expectation that there is room to negotiate

Me: I understand what you’re saying and I agree that discounting undermines the stated retail value of all artwork. If a potential buyer believes that there is room to negotiate, the retail price has been undermined. The problem is that Pandora’s box has already been opened when it comes to discounts. Many buyers, especially seasoned collectors, come to the market with an expectation that there is room to negotiate. The “devaluation” has already occurred in a sense, and the broad art market has already adjusted for it by padding the price to allow room for negotiation.

Artist: So it’s all based on a falsehood. If we all just stopped offering discounts and brought our prices down a bit, we wouldn’t have to negotiate any more.

Me: I’m not sure that’s actually the case. It’s human nature to want to get the best deal possible. Negotiation goes back, I’m sure, to the very dawn of commerce. Even if we lowered our prices, I’m confident the next buyer would still ask for a better price. More importantly, I believe that removing negotiation from the market would actually decrease sales across the art market. Buyers don’t negotiate because they need to, they negotiate because they enjoy the process and it makes them feel they’re special, and they’ve worked to get a good deal.

The other problem with what your saying is that you would have to get every artist and gallery to agree to stop negotiating. As soon as one seller makes a deal with a buyer, they have a competitive advantage. From a practical standpoint, discounting isn’t going anywhere.

Artist: But I don’t negotiate the price I pay for groceries, why should I discount my art?

Me: Actually, we get “discounts” on groceries, and everything else we buy all the time. I’ll grant you that we aren’t haggling over the price we pay for fruit like buyers used to in the open street markets, but food and clothing retailers base almost all of their marketing efforts around sales. Their sales are a form of negotiation where they’ve gone ahead and taken the discount upfront. Look what happened to JC Penny when they tried to stop offering sale prices and go to an “everyday low price” strategy – it was disastrous for their business.

Artist: I feel like people are trying to take advantage of my financial situation by insisting on a discount. Art buyers have plenty of money, they don’t need to drive down my price when I need the sale to eat.

Me: I would encourage you not to take it personally any more than you take a rainstorm personally. As I said before, it’s the market that encourages negotiation. I’ve negotiated thousands of deals over the 20 years that I’ve been in the business and I’ve never felt the buyer was trying to do me or my business injury by negotiating. Remember, the worst that can happen is that you aren’t able to come to terms with the buyer and the sale doesn’t happen – exactly the same result if there hadn’t been any negotiation in the first place.

Artist: I think customers will buy even if I don’t give them a discount. If they don’t buy the piece, I’ll sell it to someone else.

Me: I believe you’re losing business and hampering your success. You may be right that some customers will buy a piece even if you don’t agree to negotiate – but you’re going to see other clients walk out the door. I had a buyer who told me a competitor of mine refused to negotiate with him. Not only did he walk , he said he would never go back to the gallery. I sold him two major pieces that day and have since sold him several more. Oh, and the gallery that refused to negotiate? Out of business.

Obviously this is anecdotal and I’m sure you can point to cases where you didn’t negotiate and made a sale. But the question is, is it worth losing sales, even if it’s only a few, by ardently refusing to negotiate? You argue that you will sell the piece to someone else, but you’ve still lost a sale – had you negotiated and sold the piece to the first client, the second client may have bought another piece and you would have two sales instead of one.

Artist: I have a friend whose work is in such demand that she can’t keep up with sales and she doesn’t have to negotiate at all.

Me: The art market is driven by supply and demand just like any other market. As supply decreases and demand increases, the value of the product increases. It sounds like your friend has increased the value of her work to eat up any slack between any possible discount and the retail price she’s asking. The fact that she’s not able to keep up with sales, however, doesn’t indicate she doesn’t have to deal with negotiation anymore, but rather that her work is now under-priced.

Of course, that’s her decision to make – she may feel that she’s willing to give up revenue to no longer need to negotiate. Make no mistake though, she is missing out on potential income, just as surely as you are if you refuse to negotiate.

Artist: If I discount my work, I’m betraying past buyers who have paid full price for my work.

Me: I disagree. Let’s face it, the value of any work of art is mostly arbitrary. A client is willing to buy a piece of artwork because she feels it is worth whatever she is paying. If she paid full price, it’s because she felt it was worth it. Some buyers feel uncomfortable negotiating and are willing to pay full retail to avoid the necessity of “haggling”. Paying full price may also make them feel more successful (“I could negotiate if I wanted to, but I’m successful enough that I don’t have to”). In other words, she getting something of value to her in return for not negotiating.

HandshakeA caveat though: there are limits to what constitutes a reasonable discount. If you are giving some clients 50% discounts, you may very well alienate past buyers.

Artist: I’m not currently represented by a gallery, but wouldn’t I undercut them if I sell my work at any discount?

Me: You certainly want to nurture your gallery relationships. Undercutting the gallery will completely undermine trust. First, if a client saw your work in a gallery first, you should refer that client back to the gallery for any sales. Second, you can still negotiate with your direct buyers as long as you give your galleries the same latitude to negotiate that you give yourself.

Negotiation is a skill, and once you master it, you will see your sales increase substantially

Artist: I don’t care what you say, I hate negotiating!

Me: That may just be because you’ve never learned how much fun it can be, and how to do it properly. Negotiation is a skill, and once you master it, you will see your sales increase substantially. When you successfully negotiate a sale, everyone wins.

 

Our discussion went on to other topics from here. If you are a reluctant negotiator, however, I hope I’ve given you something to think about.

I would be remiss if I convinced you to think more favorably about negotiation and then didn’t give you some guidelines for better negotiation. I devote an entire chapter of my book How to Sell Art to negotiating. Below is an excerpt I think you will find helpful the next time you find yourself in a negotiation with a potential buyer.

 

When Pricing Your Artwork, Build in Room to Negotiate

With the knowledge that negotiation is likely to occur, it makes sound sense to account for it when setting prices. In my first book, “Starving” to Successful, I devote an entire chapter to the mechanics of determining the pricing of one’s work. While it is not my purpose to cover the details for price setting here, I do encourage the artist and the gallerist to build in some room to negotiate when pricing art. The breadth of each negotiation will vary, but if one allows a 20% margin for negotiation, she will have sufficient flexibility for virtually every scenario.

An artist selling her work directly to collectors at shows and through her studio, while also showing in galleries, needs to make sure she is pricing her work consistently. Her galleries need to have the same latitude to negotiate with customers that she adopts when making direct sales. The 20% margin must therefore be the standard application across the board.

Get the Client to Make an Offer

When a client approaches me inquiring whether the price of a particular piece is negotiable, I reply that the artist does give me a little bit of room to move if it will help a client who loves the piece to acquire it. I then state the retail price on the piece, and ask what the client has in mind. It is my strong preference to have the client put a number on the table before I start fishing for an alternate price.

What if the customer makes a ridiculously low offer? I don’t let it phase me, and I take no offense. After all, the initial offer is not the end of the negotiation process; it is just the beginning.

Not every client will be willing to put a specific offer on the table – “I just want your very best price,” is a common declaration. I don’t push hard to get a number, but if I can get the customer to make an offer, I have found it makes the rest of the negotiation progress more smoothly.

I have also discovered that the typical collector will not low-ball me with a ludicrous offer. By requesting that he make an offer, I am putting him ever so gently on the spot. While he wants a great bargain on the art, he neither wants to embarrass himself, nor to offend me. Occasionally, the first offer from the customer entails the need for a smaller discount than I would have proffered.

Confirm the Offer and Commit the Customer

As soon as the client has given me a number, I echo the offer. Then I get a firm commitment that if I find a way to make the offer work, the transaction will be completed today.

“You are offering $4,500 – if I can make that number work, will you purchase the sculpture today?”

Requiring the client to commit in the here-and-now eliminates the opportunity to introduce other obstacles that might compromise the purchase. I don’t want to begin intense negotiations if he still needs to measure a space, or to decide if he likes the sculpture enough to secure it – I will negotiate only if he is ready to purchase at the mutually acceptable price.

Write Up a Counter-Offer

Now that the client has committed to purchase the piece, I ask for a moment. I make my way back to my desk, where I enter a state of intense calculation. I am going to admit it: I put on a bit of a show here. Even though I usually know what my counter-offer is going to be as soon as the client has made her offer, I never (NEVER!) accept nor counter an offer straightway.

I sit at my desk and calculate. I pull up my inventory database and confirm the retail price. I pull out a notepad and jot down figures. I run the numbers on my calculator. I calculate, I contemplate, all the while scratching numbers on my notepad (more about what I write on the pad to come). I furrow my brow and mutter under my breath.

Why all the fuss? There is a method in my madness: I want the client to know I am working hard for him – and I am.

At the conclusion of all the calculation and contemplation, I finally reach the moment of triumph – the moment wherein I have figured out how to make my clients the proud owners of a new work of art, at an incredible value.

During this three-minute exercise in “crunching the numbers”, my anxious patrons have either been making their way around the gallery, or waiting before the piece of art for my answer. They can’t help but make furtive glances in my direction, and take notice of the intensity in my application. There are moments when they think I will surely come back with bad news, perhaps even chase them out of the gallery for making such a preposterous offer.

Now, at the triumphal moment, an exultant smile has taken over my face. It becomes clear that everything is going to be okay. I rise from my chair, and stride briskly to where they stand to deliver the happy news.

On my notepad, I have written the following:

$5,000.00 Retail

+$180.00 Delivery/Shipping

$5,180.00

+$82.50 Sales Tax

$5,262.50 Total

$4700 All-inclusive

I have purposefully made the [retail sales amount] appear complex and expensive, in sharp contrast to the beautiful simplicity of the [final price]. I use my notepad to illustrate the counter-offer.

“I think I have come up with something that will work for you,” I say. “Let me show you what I was able to do.”

When I extend the pad for their examination, I initially cover my counter-offer with my right thumb. I proceed to explain, step-by-step, the retail price and any additional charges. I conclude by underlining the retail price.

“The retail on this piece is $5,000. I estimate the crating and delivery would be about $180, which brings us to $5,180. Because we’re shipping out of state, there is no state sales tax; however, there is an $82.50 charge to satisfy the city tax. That brings the total to five thousand, two hundred sixty-two dollars, and fifty cents.”

I want that last number to be long, complex, and expensive. I give the full version instead of shortening it to fifty-two, sixty-two, and fifty cents ($5,262.50).

“It is my pleasure to offer the piece to you at $4,700 (and I say it forty-seven hundred, not four thousand, seven hundred) all-inclusive. I will cover the tax and the delivery.”

I skip a couple of beats while they look at the pad, and then I move to close.

“May I write that up for you?”

Many times, the couple in this position sees and acknowledges everything that I am doing for them, nods, and accepts the deal at $4,700. We move to the desk to write up the sale (see Chapter 7 | Go for the Close).

There are, however, many instances when the clients look at the counter offer, and then make a counter-counter offer. In this example, it might be $4,500.

“$4,500?” I restate. “And you would have me include the shipping and tax?”

Upon confirmation from the clients that I understand their counter offer correctly, I pause for another moment, and then extend my hand to shake theirs and say, “It would be my pleasure. Congratulations – the piece is yours.”

Notice that I did not say anything about the couple’s original offer during the negotiation. The initial offer may have been $4,500, but remember, I was using that offer to ascertain where the client stood, and to make sure I did not offer a  deeper discount than was sought or expected. The original offer may have had some impact on the size of the discount, but had it been absurdly low, it would in no way have dictated my response.

Never Apologize When Presenting the Counter-Offer

I remember very early in my sales career hearing a colleague return to a customer who had made an offer and say something to the effect:

“I’m sorry, but it looks like the best I can do is . . .”

Think about this response for a minute. What he was saying to his customer translated as: “Prepare yourself to be disappointed and to not buy.” Even then, with very little training or experience, I knew that this was not the message I wanted to convey in my own transactions.

I understand the inclination to say something like what I overheard, especially in the situation where my number differs radically from the offer. My approach, though, is to simply pretend the low offer does not exist – it was never made. I return to the customer, proud to share the great value I have secured for them.

“I think I’ve come up with something that is going to work for you. Let me show you what I have done.”

Now, instead of priming the customer for disappointment, I have secured his readiness to hear the great news I have in hand. I show him my notepad, covering my counter-offer with my thumb. I  emphasize the expensive retail price first, and then finish on a high note when I uncover the magic number in the right column.

Make Someone Else the Bad Guy

This advice won’t work for the artist. After all, when it comes to her work, the buck stops with her. For gallerists (or artists’ spouses), moving the decision making process away from oneself can be an excellent way to conduct a negotiation.

“I need to make a quick phone call and check with the artist – can you give me just a moment?”

I love saying this to the customer. As soon as I say the words, two things happen. First, I make the buyer an ally in the negotiation process. (Guess who just became the bad guy?) Second, he suddenly realizes he is transacting business not only with the gallery owner, but is also negotiating with the artist herself. This knowledge can maximize the client’s offer.

If You Cannot Agree, Get Out Gracefully

In spite of your best efforts, you will occasionally experience negotiations that hold no possibility for successful resolution or positive outcome. A customer might be unwilling or unable to pay enough to make the transaction profitable for you. When this is the case, maintain your cool, and be gracious in declining his offer. Make the attempt to leave the door open should he have a change of heart upon further reflection.

“Thank you for your offer. Unfortunately I am unable to accept it at this time. My offer of $4,500 remains open to you if you change your mind, so long as the piece is still available.”

Notice I do not offer a reason why I cannot accept the offer (more on that to come), nor do I tell the customer to take a hike. I remain professional, yet make it clear that I have gone as low as I can go. Perhaps the customer will step back to confer with a companion, or to give my offer further consideration, before agreeing to accept the terms. But even if he decides to walk away, he can now do so with the assurance that I have respected him and his offer, and have treated him fairly and squarely.

 

Please Leave a Comment!

How do you feel about negotiating when selling your art? Do you agree/disagree with any of the points made in this post? Please leave a comment below. Please note that we moderate the comments to make sure no spam gets through, so it may take a while for your comment to appear.

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.

21 Comments

  1. Jason, thank you for this article. I WAS this artist! For years I feared negotiating the price of my work. I felt demeaned when someone made an offer, or worse yet EXPECTED me to cut the price of my painting. I took it as a personal affront to my value as an artist.

    One day a would be client made an offer for several paintings and I said yes. In that moment fear took a hike and I became profitable in a way I never imagined. The client came back and bought several more batches of paintings, writing me big checks. Similar clients showed up and did the same. My checking account filled up. I began painting more. I began painting the larger paintings I’d dreamed of painting. And sold the largest commissioned painting I’d ever painted.

    My paintings changed too. They are filled with joy now. Brush strokes and colors became vibrant and bold. Saying yes felt like jumping off a cliff! But I never looked back ~ until I read your article today I hadn’t realized how far I’ve flown!

  2. I find negotiating the “fun” part of being an Artist. I don’t do it on every painting I offer though. Why is it fun? Unlike your Artist friend in the conversation, I don’t sell to eat. My former employment and my wife’s former employment have left us financially secure even if I never sold a painting. However, I would not be happy with that scenario as the “fun” is in knowing someone values my work enough to want to spend their money on it, discounted or not.
    Is there an answer? I feel if the Artist wants to be in a gallery, and has a gallery that is willing to represent him/her, then that decision to discount should be a mutual decision – yes or no. If you are uncomfortable with that then perhaps self-promotion and sales through your own website would be better for you. There the decision to discount or not is up to you. And if you need the sale to live – then you can decide if you can live with the discounted sale – or not.

  3. Thanks again, Jason, for a superb post. I find that all sales and discounts offered are based on the Golden Rule which I think is what you express in all of your comments and actions! Being gracious in our lives is so very important in all areas of negotiation, especially in the arts. We have been in the art business for most of our married life, and have much experience with negotiation so I was delighted to read your post.
    Buying art is about love which makes the rewards so wonderful. We have a client who purchased two large, fairly expensive paintings twenty years ago. The sale was not through a gallery, but a friend and collector who loved Peter’s work. So we not only gave her a painting out of our gratitude since there was also no commission to pay, but we decided to give the client a very small, but very whimsical painting which we knew he loved. He was thrilled. A few years later, we had several paintings which were done as part of a project for a group in our area; but because only one painting was required, there were several which remained in the studio. Because the subject was fairly specific, I was led to contact that particular client mentioned above and offer him these two paintings at a discounted, but fair price.
    This was perfect for he and his wife, and they purchased them. And then about three years ago, we ended up receiving an email from a designer in our area whose clients had given her Peter’s name to see about purchasing paintings for the new home they were building. After several visits to our home/studio/garden, we discerned that her clients were actually the clients mentioned above. Their business was now so demanding that they did not have the time for a studio visit, and the designer was doing all the leg work for them. I promised her total confidentiality because I did want them to feel badly about being unable to deal with us directly at that time. Three months later, they ended up with two spectacular paintings…and the designer gave us a break on their commission so the check was larger than we thought it would be. Negotiations and graciousness and fairness are always “the way” to proceed.

  4. There is something I’m missing here. I do offer clients a 10 – 20 percent discount on a direct sale of necessary to close a sale. BUT, giving a gallery the exact same leeway, I am giving up that 10 – 20 percent on top of the 50 percent commission to the gallery. I am receiving only percent of 30 – 40 percent of the initial retail price. I can’t make a living that way. I would love to hear a response. Thanks.

    1. I am interesting in seeing Jason’s reply. It is my understanding that if a 20 percent discount is agreed upon in a gallery setting, the gallery percentage of 50 percent is taken on the selling price, not the original asking price. So, the artist is not taking the 20 percent hit alone such as you are suggesting, am I correct?

    2. Hi Peter – most galleries write their contracts so that commissions are paid from the selling price. So if there is a 10% discount given on a $1000 work of art, the commission would be calculated from the $900 selling price. The artist and gallery would make $450 each. In other words, a 10% discount on commission for each.

      Keep in mind that negotiation is used to help accelerate sales, so we’re all working toward increasing volume.

  5. A couple of years ago I landed a commission assignment which involved a very large painting of a scene from the client’s old home, to be hung in a specific location in his new home. Visits to both homes, and serious discussions about the subject matter reached the point of closing the deal. I quoted a price based on my rate per square inch (slightly higher because it was a commission piece) and my requirement for a non-refundable 50% deposit. But then the client asked for a 20% discount. This was a big job that would tie me up for several months, taking me away from doing other work and I was not prepared to budge. We parted on the understanding that he would consider it further and get back to me with a decision. A week or so later he called to tell me he had found an artist in the east coast (we were on the west coast in Vancouver) willing to do the job for 20% less than me but he would prefer to give the job to a local artist. I knew he was bluffing, but told him I completely understood that cost was always an important factor and that he should go with the best deal, but I proposed I could lower my price by 20% if we reduced the size of the painting by 20%. Although I didn’t tell him this, I felt the size he wanted was too large for the space he wanted to hang it, and also too large to fit into my 4Runner, making transportation complicated. He accepted immediately! Getting the discount was a matter of principle for this multi-millionaire and the fact that the lower price actually ended up being a higher price per square inch did not matter to him. He got his discount and I got a higher rate than originally quoted. We both won.

    1. I haven’t had to give significant discounts, but I do have a friend who is fond of my work and I realize she doesn’t have the big bucks. She is always offered a discount if she requests it.
      I do recall traveling to Istanbul and the Grand Bazaar. Oh, my! Talk about negotiation! They expect you to haggle. I realized that though I am not an expert (Canadian; too polite, eh?) it was sort of fun. If you stop at one shop and buy something, that person has a friend with a shop elsewhere in the bazaar. They know how to do business. They will serve you hot apple tea in small glass containers. Young men go from shop to shop bringing people tea.So civilized!

  6. One of the best tactics to negotiate with art I’ve found, especially if you’re the artist selling direct, is to upsell. Instead of a discount, offer something extra for a relatively smaller extra price. IE Client wants a piece priced at $2000. “Well, I noticed you also really seemed into this one, together they’d normally be $4000, but how about both for $3000?” Once someone is already interested, the chance of selling more than one piece greatly increases.

  7. Thanks Jason for your perspective and for the comments.
    I am sometimes asked for a discount. I try to avoid it. If the collector has purchased before, or if they are buying more than one piece, that qualifies. Otherwise, I always try to offer an alternative. For example, I may offer to include a copy of one or more sketches involved in creating the sculpture. These are simple laser prints on a good paper. They cost me nothing. They provide the collector a unique insight into my process and usually extend our conversation when I deliver the prints. I try to do that in person when possible. Collectors are likely to show these sketches to friends who comment of the piece when displayed in their home or office. Some collectors have actually framed the sketches to display along with my sculptures. My experience is that buyers always want to know about your process. It increases their perceived value of your art and their connection with you. They feel like they have gained something from negotiation. You have too! You get the price you want and a relationship with the collector that they may not have with other artists. Turning sales into relationships is always a good strategy.

  8. For me it depends on the piece being purchased. If it’s a piece I am particularly fond of, and one I hope to exhibit in more juried shows, I do not discount. I sold such a piece to a collector at my full asking price because, to be honest, I was reluctant to let it go too soon. That said, that collector is now interested in more of my work, and I WILL discount going further. It has been my experience that genuine collectors of your work come back for more, especially if treated well. Other pieces that I like but which don’t hold that “special” place in my heart, I will negotiate on.

    Speaking from the other side–I am not only an artist but a collector. We purchased a couple of pieces on two separate occasions by an artist we love through a gallery. They were at full price. Then we were interested in two major pieces by the same artist. The gallerist knew I also loved a smaller work. When we bought the two larger artworks, she threw in the third as part of the sale. I have to say that it sweetened the deal considerably. It makes me want to buy even more work by this artist.

  9. Maybe I am just jaded. Maybe it’s because I thought it unfair. I had my work in a very reputable gallery that showed work from a good number of artists but the owner never wanted me to price my work in what she felt was the upper limits. Consequently, my prices were reasonable or affordable. So when she made a sale and discounted my work I became very annoyed. Yes, a discount brings that buyer back but not necessarily to my work. So that benefit didn’t get passed on to me, the gallery owner reaped that reward. When I mentioned that if she wanted to reduce my price then I would expect her to reduce her commission unless she allowed me to price with a built in room to negotiate. Pricing one’s work is always chancy. If it is too high you can drive away sales and the same holds for a too low price. Artists need to do their homework and research what works are selling for locally.

  10. If an artist is represented by a gallery taking 50% commission, and she would prefer not to have her art discounted, can the gallery, take the discount from their commission so the artist still gets what she needs for the piece?

    1. Unlikely Helen. Galleries and artists are working in partnership, and the two benefit together from sales. There are a few things to keep in mind, however. If you are working with a good gallery, they will likely be selling the work at a higher volume, and at higher prices than you might be able to on your own.

    2. To add to Jason’s comments Helen…Some galleries will assume the entire discount themselves, however it is generally for very high ticket items such as blue chip art. Find a gallery whom you trust, and work with them. Tell them what you ideally want out of it, and let them come to a realistic price with you on each piece. The price needs to satisfy you both.

  11. I have no problem entertaining reasonable discounts! I have a pricing formula I use and I buffer in gallery commissions (usually 50%), free-shipping if sale is from my website (up to $150) plus ability to offer 20% discounts. This might make my initial asking price high, but I’ve found that my real customers are the ones that fall in love with my art, no matter the price. Being able to offer a 20% discount – will often seal the deal and make the buyer feel really great about the special treatment.

    Only discount I ever took issue with, was when a gallery owner talked me down from my pricing calculation on a piece and then (without talking with me) sold the piece for an additional discount – with the double discount, plus gallery commission, the sale did not support a sustainable business model. Therefore, I believe that when a gallery represents an artist, all possible discount options should be discussed and agreed upon upfront.

  12. I love to negotiate, and it is a real art in itself. I have some very effective sales tools which I use, and prefer to keep those to myself, however will say, that if you are not willing to discount, and deal, then your work is more than likely going to sell much slower. It is rare that I get someone in my gallery who does not ask for some sort of lower price. There are other avenues you can offer in some instances than simply discounting something down immediately. They can include, paying for sales tax, shipping, delivery and installation, I even offer to frame certain works in a different frame, if they do not care for the frame, and I know it will be worth it for me in the end. Higher priced works naturally allow for more flexibility in dealing, and works below a certain price, I simply will not discount. Regardless of what you offer, it is very important how you present yourself. The client is watching you much more than you realize. Never appear anxious, or in need of a sale. It is easy to get excited, however maintain a calm exterior, and watch your voice tone. If you get talking too fast and rush the sale, it can appear pushy and the client may perceive you as possibly trying to con them. Keep them focused on the work, and ask questions which illicit an agreeable answer. Never use the words “cost” or “price”. Use the word “value” .ie: I may say something like: “The value placed on that particular work which I am authorized to sell it at is $5,500.” Some artists works naturally sell faster, and easier than other artists. Don’t compare their sales to yours. Sit and discuss your prices with the gallery owner, and agree upon what you are willing to discount each individual work down to. It has to make sense though. It can’t be something like: “This piece is more, because I like it more, or it took me longer.” The client does not care how long it took you. They are pretty much looking at size as the determining factor as the variable within an artist’s price range. Don’t expect discounting to go away. It is associated with the nature of the product. Price your work upfront with some padding in it to allow for discounting. I do not necessarily discount at only 10%, 15%, and 20% which is pretty standard. Offer a discount of something like 14% or 17%. It makes the client think that you really have put some thought into the expenses you are discounting.

  13. Made a great living at art market venues exhibiting my original work and selling lots of giclees until covid collision cancelled this Spring and maybe the Summer, too. My pricing for original works gives me considerable head room to negotiate a happy meeting of customer bartering and my monetary expectations. In regards to gallery pricing, the valuations listed are the same as my venue prices. So yeah, the gallery can play negotiation if they see fit to do so. And, by the way, what I ultimately sell an original work for is none of any other client’s business, either from a gallery or my face to face sales. As long as I am consistent about it, I feel good about it. When a possible client expresses interest in a specific work, of course I weigh their interest and their wallet, and let serendipity guide me to the close. I have even asked, “well, how bad do you want it?, what is it worth to you?”

    What Jason said, “Let’s face it, the value of any work of art is mostly arbitrary.” Almost all my pieces have different prices on them, Size, time, wow factor, framing, etc…. many parameters in consideration of pricing values. I set artwork values high enough so that a gallery brave enough to exhibit my work can make a happy profit and still afford to send me the commission, and stay true to the contract and conduct with that gallery. Now here is the long term issue: If a gallery decides to charge more than I have stated a value at, say double it, I will be negotiating with the gallery to accept my pricing…Because, communication is the key to making sales, and my art market venue asking price will be the same as the price the gallery and I agreed upon when the piece was exhibited at the gallery. The client still has to weigh their own interest and wallet.

  14. I have a few criteria when it comes to discounts. Should the work have been in the gallery for over six months, the gallery owner is free to discount up to 10% without discussing it with me. If it is new work, I’d prefer a phone call. I can then ascertain whether I’m prepared to discount or not. If the collector is buying more than one of my work, then a discount is common practice. I don’t really want to discount because the collector is buying a couple of pieces of various artists (then I feel the discount should come from the gallery in that instance). When selling privately, I generally offer a 10% artist discount (with my prices being the same as the galleries). It all goes back to personal dealings. If a good client comes into the gallery, why should I discount every time if he’s buying other artists work? I think its a matter of respect and common sense.

    Sometimes I tell the gallery owner to ask the collector he may have whatever discount he’d like as long as he feels he needs the money more than I do. That’s a joke (but has an element of truth to it).

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