Video: Ask a Gallery Owner | Should I Negotiate with Clients in Order to Make Sales?

In this week’s session I’ll tackle the sometimes tricky question of whether or not negotiating with customers to make a sale is advisable, and, if so, how to negotiate to best effect.


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, 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. Jason – In todays world and economy the statement on most Web-sites like Saatchi Art state – “Make an Offer” . . . The fact is what is paid for a work of art is – what it’s worth in $’s at the time! My favorite way of working with a client is creating a special commission working with subject /colors etc. I sometimes create two paintings giving them the choice of the two paintings which works for me!

    1. So you’re doing two paintings worth of work and only being paid for one of them ? I don’t see the advantage in that

      1. Leslie – “Creating Art” is a joy and freeing for the client given a choice. Would you believe one time both were purchase and balance on a dining room wall. They also became conversation in the happening . . . Works for me! . . .

  2. Well said Jason… I think that many artists do not really understand the sales process, and might feel that galleries are not as concerned about discounting an artist’s work. Galleries are in the business to make as much money off of a sale as the artist is. When I initially began as an art dealer many years ago, I used to hate discounting artwork down. Over time, I l became a better salesperson and I learned how to use it to my advantage, and (as with Jason) I view it as a tool into closing a deal.When artwork arrives in the gallery, I discuss ahead of time with the artist what the exact amount I may discount each work down to. Anything at $1,000 or below is not discounted at all. The higher the price goes up, the more flexibility the gallery has in discounting. Know ahead of time exactly what you can discount a piece down to and never go immediately to that price point. As with Jason, I try to find some other avenue of working out a better price for the client such as shipping, taxes, etc. If I hear the client comment on framing, I may offer to frame the piece out for them, and I have several framing options in which I can quickly work up an estimate for them to see. If it is a large work, then the gallery can offer delivery service within a certain mile radius, or at a fee which would save them over standard shipping. Even offering to professionally hang the work sometimes can make the sale happen. Most people want to feel that they are getting something more for their money. if you plan ahead of time, discounting can become your friend and it becomes a natural part of the sale process.

  3. As a retail gallery of resale collectible art, we encountered an unusual “buyer” whose greatest motivation in negotiation was to make sure we would be truly unhappy and to gloat in his success. We discovered that he boasted about that exact negotiating skill on his realtor website. So when he countered yet lower after we arrived at (“best price”) an agonizing unbelievably huge discount on a masterpiece with special provenance, we realized we should avoid that unhappiness. The extra amount we were asking him to pay should not have stopped him from buying what he said had personal meaning for him. He would check back every year or so, and we eventually blocked his emails. A game at our expense. Not typical, thank heavens. But sometimes retaining the item unsold is better than knowing you have been unfairly bested in the negotiating process.

  4. Excellent presentation, Jason. For the seller, to get past the emotional barrier of having to get less than the asking price, it’s sometimes helpful to build some of the expected discount into the asking price. Then you don’t feel bad about giving it up.

  5. Negotiations have become a resent valuable tool for to close sales. However, I feel stuck in a middle zone. By buyers have mostly been two kinds. One approaches very decisively where very little communication has been required and they pay the full amount. The second is a type of client who approaches admiringly, we have a little conversation about the art, and they stand there acting shy and quiet. I read that their eyes are sparkling but they’re waiting for me to talk. My way of bringing it to a sale is offering it with some price knocked off. I feel I’m jumping the gun but I don’t know what words to use to bring it from an art conversation to a purchase conversation. Any tips?

    1. Hi Brett, I find for the “second type” of customer, the best thing to do is ask for the sale. Perhaps you could say, ” I can see you really love this piece. Can I write it up for you?” From their response, you will know if, yes they are ready to purchase it or they may tell you the real reason for their hesitation. It may not be the price but something else that you can help them over come.

  6. I read an article years ago by an established artist back when I was making my way up the ranks as a professional painter. She was adamant that you don’t budge on price. I took it to heart and at my next opening where I was present and closing sales directly I decided to stand firm on a price when asked for a discount. The potential buyer walked. Huge mistake on my part. Turns out the buyer was already a collector of mine with at least three of my paintings in their very prestigious collection. They were founders of a huge tech company and were literally billionaires. Never collected from me again as far as I know.

  7. As a working Artist, my business is my chosen professional career, (emphasize on ‘chosen professional career’).

    My comments are based upon my own experience:

    -I find it somewhat abusive that collectors and/or potential buyers ask for a discount. Do those same people who shop in a grocery store ask the store manager for a discount on a basket full of groceries? Do these same people ask the manager or owner of a restaurant for a discount on a gourmet meal enjoyed with a bottle of vintage wine? The answer is obvious and logical.

    In 2001, Mark H. McCormick reiterated a story about Picasso:

    While in a restaurant, a diner approached Picasso, asking him to sketch art on a napkin. The diner insisted that money wasn’t a problem. Picasso reached for a piece of charcoal from his pocket and created a rapid sketch of a goat. With a few strokes, the brilliance of Picasso revealed a small, unmistakable sketch created in his unique style. The man reached out for the napkin but, Picasso did not release his art.

    “You owe me $100,000,” Picasso stated.

    The man was insulted. “$100,000 Why, that took you no more than thirty seconds to draw!”

    Picasso folded the napkin and placed it in his pocket. “You are wrong. It took me forty years.”


    ‘VALUE’ must remain in the forefront of the creative mind and while owning/operating/managing a creative based business. Not everyone can do what we do. Yes, exceptions do exist yet, one must value their talent and abilities before consideration or compromising knowledge, experience, and abilities.

  8. The Picasso story is perfect. And if you live in other countries, you’ll learn that negotiating/bargaining is a way of life. I’ve never done it with my art, but I’ve done it often as a customer. It’s “the way it is.” I was knocked over the first time I watched it, in Mexico, but my Mexican friend explained it to me. After that, I was always up for negotiating. And everyone was happy. Including me.

  9. made a living at my art for 50 years now. Negotiations are to be expected and do not always include monetary discounts. assess the potential buyer from their desire for the work in question not their ability to pay. wealthy patrons will want discounts but often the most valuable asset is personal service not cash.
    be prepared to walk away from the deal. in business there is always a bottom line which cannot be crossed. the clients now this so if they press too hard say thanks but no thanks. barter could be a viable alternative. LEARN TO ASSESS YOUR CLIENTS AND BECOME AN ARTIST/SALESPERSON.

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