Friday, June 25, 2010

A Face for Radio : On Pricing Art

OK, so I don't even really have a voice for this (my allergies were acting up so much and my voice was so froggy it's kind of amazing that David Kestenbaum managed to get anything he could use for his story on pricing art), but there's a nice bit on Morning Edition today called "Nice Art! How Much?" that includes an interview with yours truly. There's reportedly a longer version coming out shortly in their Planet Money podcast later.

Mr. Kestenbaum was phenomenally easy to talk to...he had this effortless way of putting you at ease and getting you to chat that I'm sure is so much more difficult than he made it look. He's also quick as a whip, as they say...not missing a note in helping steer the conversation along in a lively manner.

I haven't heard the podcast yet, but I hope it includes part of the conversation in which I warned against emerging artists setting their prices based on how good they feel their work stacks up against that of artists with more established markets. My sense of that is that your work may be just as good or better (and that if indeed the world agrees, your prices will rise nicely as a result), but to try to set your prices too high before there's actual demand for your work is to ensure you'll need plenty of storage for quite some time. Let the people who snap your work up for a competitive price (not an insanely low price, just a smartly competitive price) start working for you by hanging your work, talking about it to their friends, and essentially promoting you! So long as you keep careful watch on your prices and raise them when true demand justifies it, you'll be so much better off than if you sell fewer works at a price that seemed too high for what could have been your other collectors.

Labels: pricing, radio


Anonymous Bill said...

Nice piece on NPR this morning. Congratulations!


6/25/2010 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Courtney said...

Hi Ed,

It was great to hear this on NPR this morning! It came on the radio just as I left my home in Syracuse to head to NYC. A friend and I are doing a curatorial research project called "Price Check" about how the price of art changes across New York State. We invite visitors to "name their price" in a sort of blind silent auction for similar works at locations in Syracuse, Beacon, and soon in Brooklyn.

I was thrilled to hear a subject I've spent so much time thinking about on a national financial radio program just as I'm heading to New York to write the research paper. Impeccable timing. Thanks!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the project sometime. There's more info at

All the best,

Courtney Rile

6/25/2010 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

That is fantastic. I emailed NPR a few months ago about #class to bring it to their attention. Love morning edition and David Kestenbaum.

I think artists are learning more and more how to price their works, taking into consideration that the prices one sees in galleries do not reflect what art is sold for out of the studio.

6/25/2010 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Dug up some headphones and listened to the podcast. Great interview!

It was funny to hear Baumol use David Roberts as his example of an artist who went totally out of style. I’ve always loved his work, despite the stigma of Orientalism (and I’m sure a dozen other stigmas besides). It’s very interesting to compare his watercolors of sites in Egypt and Nubia with photos taken of the same sites not that long after.

6/25/2010 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger bastinptc said...

Glad you mentioned the caveat for newbies as NPR went for the flash (the sensational, and perhaps 'in the pan'). I hope the interview does get heard in its entirety.

6/25/2010 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Art Trip said...

Ed, Just heard you on NPR and loved it. I'm curious what level of artist you are representing. If the Hirsts and Koons are a-list and a lot of artists you see in art magazines are b-listers, what level of artists do you represent? Do you feel that you are shut out of representing A-listers or B-listers? Are you being shut out by top artists, collectors and the top tier 'players' in the NYC art scene or did you find your 'niche' (as a lower tier gallerist) and are happy with it?

I think you are very cool to put yourself out on the art-o-web this way.


6/25/2010 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous matthew said...

Very interesting interview ...

I read this comment on Nice Art! How Much?: "The absurdity of the art world is evident in the case of Congo the Painting Chimpanzee. As NPR reported in 2005, one of the ape's pieces sold for over $25,000! The piece may be interesting and aesthetically pleasing, but $25k?"

Hmm ...

6/26/2010 05:10:00 AM  
OpenID briandupont said...

That was very well put Ed. I would argue that the categories you describe can actually be described in much more starkly economic terms. 'Scale' and 'intensity' seem to correlate very well with the costs of labor an materials. Obviously there are some more subtle issues with medium, but editioned vs. unique work go toward supply and demand.

6/26/2010 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Tracie Thompson said...

Augh, pricing. Too high and nobody buys; too low and you can sell it, but you may as well work at McDonald's (and nobody in the Art World will take you seriously); wherever the mythical sweet spot is, I have yet to find it, but I'm trying. I tend to err on the price-it-low-and-sell-it side, preferring low wages to never having anything leave my house.

I've sometimes been chided for selling too cheap, but I have noticed that the only people who ever tell me I'm underpricing myself are people who are not buying my art anyway.

6/26/2010 02:04:00 PM  

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