I began writing this post a few weeks ago but was interrupted by having to cope with the worst cold I have ever had. I managed to keep doing my #BlackSquares365 piece every day, but this blog got put on the back burner.
I’m a member of the RWA Artists Network and at our meeting soon after starting it I had a few conversations about this #BlackSquares365 project I’m doing: in particular, the pricing of the pieces I am making but also the bare fact I’m mentioning prices for my work on social media.
At the outset, I considered very carefully what “price point” to choose and what I wanted to get out of the project. I have found these serial art projects enormously beneficial to me and my practice and making it public and shouting about it means that I will keep my word and actually do the work each day.
#BlackSquares365 is designed to keep and, if possible, increase interest in my online presence at a time while explore some new avenues of work which I may not want to share straightaway, but it is also designed to provide me with a trickle of income to help pay for the development of that new work.
I am going to do this work anyway. I cannot afford the time and money to frame it and try and sell it at my usual prices. What good will it do just sitting in a box? Much better that people can have it and enjoy it and take a bit of joy and fun in the project! So, I decided to price them as “pocket money pieces”. For a lot of people £40 is pocket money: it’s a round of drinks or a cheap meal out. For those with less disposable income but who enjoy art £40 can still be within reach. At just £40 people can buy them as Christmas gifts or “dated” birthday presents. So, I feel it’s quite a “democratic” price – almost anyone could buy their own small part of a larger artwork, the whole #BlackSquares365 project, an artwork spread over time and space that no one person will ever own and nobody will ever see in its entirety. I’m pleased to say that the number and speed of early sales seem to be proving me right, with multiple requests for the same piece and work selling within hours of posting! There has also been a boost to activity on my social media accounts since the project started.
So, what about those conversations with other artists?
“I’m wondering if you might be selling yourself short” was the opening, with the concern that once you openly quote a low price it will be hard to justify your normal higher price. I have to say that was a worry I had but I have settled to the fact that I usually work in series. This series will only be available direct from me, unframed and unmounted. At just £40 people seem happy to get a bargain small artwork with the added tale to tell that its part of a bigger project work.
“Galleries won’t touch you if you sell on line or have prices on your site.” Well, galleries were not lining up at the door begging for my work anyway so perhaps I have little to worry about there! Certainly, some galleries have exclusivity requirements and I believe complete honesty and openness is vital to the success of any working relationship, but the art market is in meltdown with everyone trying to find new ways to work. It seems that many artists are working with a range of galleries, agents, consultants and curators as well as forming their own marketing groups and selling their own work directly. This seems a reasonable way to move forward as long as everyone knows what part or parts they play in the mix and everyone gets rewarded appropriately for their work.
“If you sell them all that’s over £14k! You’re on to something there!” I know of artists with gallery representation who might get £45k from a show but then may not get another show for 3 years and can’t sell elsewhere. It would be very unlikely for me to sell all of them, but the early signs are good that I’ll sell enough to pay for the development of other work.
“How will you keep up the ideas and ensure the quality? Will each one really be worth £40?” My immediate reaction was “cheeky sod” but it’s a fair point that some days will produce better work than others. I have made a commitment that each piece must meet the minimum standard that I would be happy to have them on my own walls. Many people will get a bargain! I have found it interesting that I often get just as positive a reaction to pieces not amongst my favourites as to pieces I love the most! As to the ideas running out, it just won’t happen. Projects like this generate a momentum: each day fuels the next.