I used to work in a gallery and it was right after the 80’s print frenzy. People were no longer buying art to hide under the bed as an investment. They were purchasing to hang on their walls and I would get the same question over and over: “Is this a good investment?”
You are going to meet buyers who are going to ask you that. What I think they are really asking is, “Why is your work worth buying?” They are asking you to justify the price you put on your work. Some will come right out and ask why you put that price on your work and it is entirely up to you to tell them the reasons why.
A lot of artists don’t have a good way to explain why the price is that number. They price things and when they can’t keep things in stock, the raise them (god I wish I had that problem). I can assure you that no buyer wants to hear, “That is what the market will bear”. It makes them feel like a walking ATM. Some artists ask others for advice in pricing. Some price by the inch and others have crazy formulas that involve; time x hourly + materials x 3 = wholesale. Testing your formula in front of the customers will let you know if you have hit it right.
Ultimately, I tell them not to purchase art as an investment. I have a simple explanation for this; If you buy it as an investment but end up really loving it, you will never sell it. You won’t see a financial return on your investment if you don’t sell it, therefore; when you love it, no financial return. I tell them to buy it if it makes them feel an emotion that they want to live with. That will be their return.
When I made the transition from seller to creator, I didn’t have to change my sales technique. I was never a high-pressure salesperson. I would wait for someone to have an emotional response before I would begin to talk with them about what they were looking at. I want people to enjoy what they buy so much they never want to sell it. Who cares if their relatives hate what they bought so much they sent it to goodwill when the collector died. While that collector was alive; the art that I sold them enriched their lives.
Is art an investment? Is your happiness worth investing in? I will always believe that it is. My art collection is wide and varied and every piece means something to me. If my son doesn’t want it after my husband and I are no longer around, I won’t care. It is nice to hear he likes some of it though.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.