“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~ Warren Buffet
Many artists will relate to this! As a fine art painter I am asked over and over again this question: “How much time did it take you to do this?” to which I usually take the time to respond by gently explaining that the piece of art itself is always the end product of a long succession of diverse processes, many of them only mentally done on a variable length of time, many years of practice, of skills honing, many trials, and all together the tip of an iceberg that is the amount of living lived until the making of that piece.
In other terms, what a visitor can see as a finished “thing” (the painting on the wall) is only for me the physical execution of a process that can take years… And when it comes to the time of execution itself, it varies from a few days or weeks to about 9 months (which is the time it took for me to complete my “Inside out, quantum journey” painting, a 4 x 5 ft oil on canvas.
Genuine art lovers, collecting works of Art because they are moved by each piece and compelled to buy it, know that what they pay for is the emotion the buyer is experiencing in front of the work. The money exchanged is a means of living for the artist and a means of recognition from the buyer.
Prices vary so widely for a given size that it can go from a pittance to astronomical sums.
Fame, marketing, hype, skills, emotion, rarity, concept, exposure, everything and anything can influence the prices of a particular artist’s work.
But at the end of the day, it will sell what a buyer is willing to exchange for its energy, for its presence, for its beauty, to be able to look at it every day…
I paint and I sell what I paint with unmitigated pleasure when I see my clients smitten with a piece.
All people who bought from me, along the years know that I go the extra mile to make their purchase comfortable, either by offering free credit, or by meeting them on a price we can feel good about on both sides.
After all it is an exchange of energy in question here. My energy is encapsulated in the piece and will influence their daily life by its presence, and their money is energy for me to receive and have a decent life, keeping on creating more artwork.
There is always a sweet spot to “make the deal” when my client is genuinely in love with the work.
And then, there is the rare visitor who not only questions the time I spent on a specific work, but will decide what it should be worth and tells me so.
Fortunately these encounters are very rare.
Yesterday saw one of them.
A middle aged couple came in, by all appearances well off, I greeted them, introduced myself and let them wander for a while.
This couple seemed to like most of the work displayed and uttered some compliments about it.
The woman loved a large piece immediately, the man reviewed a few things and settled on an original piece : “Living on the edge”. This particular painting is minimalist, all about light and contrast, a symbolic play on yin and yang, complementary energies, and it is very zen (see pic). Deceptively simple, it has actually a lot of power and many people say they adore it.
I was called “to talk” and in a confident manner, from behind sun glasses that he never took off, my potential client offered me less than 1/3 of the posted price of the painting, arguing that was what it was worth in his view.
In the same time his wife asked the worn out “How much time did it take for you to do this?”…
I am happy to say, I did not take any of it personally and it did not rattle me. I simply answered calmly that it was an irrelevant question, since they would not pay me for my time but for the pleasure to look at the piece every day for the rest of their life, and for my expertise in what I do. I also gently pointed that unlike a plumber I was not working on hourly wages.
And I graciously offered to try again and find a place where we could agree, saying that I would never accept such a lowering of my price but that I was willing to accommodate if possible… how much would they be willing to go for?
From behind the mirror shades, the answer came: “Exactly what I offered at first”.
Useless to say, they left with my blessings and NOT my work.
There is indeed a line between bargain and disregard.
I am known to have given good deals to my clients, occasionally very great deals. I enjoyed doing it.
Every time I did, it was to facilitate the acquisition of something that the buyer was totally in love with.
It felt right. They were happy and I was too. The exchange of energy was good.
In yesterday’s encounter, there was no real love. Maybe the love of driving a hard bargain on this man’s part?
Definitely no emotion, no desire.
You see, I would rather GIVE the piece away for the love of it, than letting it go for a condescending offer made down from one’s nose.
If you are a potential buyer of art, and new at it, please remember the fact that what you buy is virtually priceless: it’s accessing day after day after day for a life time, the same emotion you got when looking at this piece you consider acquiring.
It’s the pleasure and pride to possess a unique invitation to dance with life on a specific tune in a unique way.
What you buy is the creative energy that went through the artist, channeled down the brush, to move you in unfathomable ways.
What you’ll really take home with you is the result of dedication, passion, practice and vision.
Not to mention that you will have an asset to pass down and be enjoyed for generations to come…
Art is and always has been a trait of being human.
Through art I believe we grow more human yet, getting in touch with parts of us that have no words.
What ever the price tag is, you’ll get more value than you think you did.