Art Pricing: What Makes a Painting Worth $10,000?

You may have started with an interest in art; then purchased one or two pieces that caught your attention. Perhaps you attended a few exhibitions or visited some galleries and now find yourself fascinated with the possibility of collecting (and even investing in) art more seriously.

To outsiders, pricing distinctions may seem odd. When viewing two similar pieces (perhaps in size & style), how is it possible that one would command $1,000 while another brings $10,000? Due to art’s inherent individualism, there will always be a short supply. This will give you some background on how art pricing is determined so you start off with a basic understanding of the process.

Price is Multi-Faceted

How do artists and gallery owners decide how to price a piece of art? Several factors are logical and others are a bit more, shall we say, a matter of opinion. Here are a few to consider:

  • Size of Art: Are you looking at a 16” x 20” painting or a 3’ tall sculpture?
  • Labor Intensity: Consider the medium(s) involved, the amount of detail, and what tools were required to produce the piece.
  • Artist’s Reputation: Is the artist new or already well-known, perhaps with a loyal following? How long has the artist been producing and how much longer will he/she be working?
  • Demand for Work: Are several art enthusiasts and collectors purchasing the artist’s work, and are art critics and galleries looking to display it?

There are industry leaders who can affect the price of a piece, like an art critic, gallerist, or even the highest bidder at an auction. The point at which the price aligns with perceived value can be hard to find for beginners.

The Difficult Factor—Value

It is hard to separate price from value, but value truly is a different animal. Artists who bear significance in art history or new artists whose works are in high demand may be considered the “next big thing” to collectors. Further, if galleries and museums are displaying an artist’s work, some buzz may be built around the work they are exhibiting, thus increasing their value.

Additionally, there has been a cycle of art movements over time. Popularity of any one (or several) style of art ebbs and flows. Those industry leaders who “speak art” at the time, have some power to dictate what is valuable, and others tend to listen. The art market likes familiarity, so it may take some time and effort for an “off-season” style of work or artist to gain notoriety.

Become Educated

To gain skills in art pricing and valuation, you need to immerse yourself in the industry. Build relationships with active galleries who host shows regularly. Experts advise that time spent studying art, both in galleries and museums, as well as learning art history, will help you gain a deeper understanding of where the art world has traveled, and allow you to gain confidence in your own abilities.

Meet artists when you can, and try to question them on what inspires them, or what story they are telling with the work you are viewing. You will learn much if you can even ask the artist point-blank how a piece of work was priced.  With some familiarity, education, and the experience gained from other experts, you will be well on your way to deepen your understanding of pricing and ready to begin your career as a skilled art collector.

Exclusive Opportunity

For new collectors or those seeking unique pieces for investment, we are introducing a unique new invitation-only membership to the Private Sybaris ARTclub. The Private Gallery will provide members with an exclusive introduction and access to fine art and design pieces by talented, renowned, and emerging artists you will only find in the Sybaris Collection. Would you be interested in Joining the ARTclub? Visit our ARTclub page and sign up to learn more.