How is the price of a work determined?
Appraising art is a complicated process that considers many factors. The most accurate way to describe pricing art is that you have a scale and each of these factors add or subtract the weight, but none can be looked at without the others to reach an accurate price. When we are looking to buy or sell a piece of work the following criteria are some that are considered.
For most works, who the artist is has the greatest influence on the price of a piece of artwork. For example, if you have two works of art that are the same medium, size, quality, condition, content, style and from the same year, but one is not attributed to any artist while the other is a well known artist, the price assigned to each is going to be vastly different. While the old argument of whether art should stand on its own without the reputation of the artist, may hold some weight, it just doesn’t affect the price.
Signature and date
Works that have the artist’s signature are priced higher. Documentation proving the artist created a piece is important, but having the actual artist’s signature on the work will place it at a higher price point.
How many works are out in circulation also has an impact on the price. If works are hard to find by a specific artist, buyers will be willing to pay more for a work by that artist. However, just because an artist was impressively prolific, that does not necessarily drop the price.
Quality of the work
While a piece may be in a higher price bracket because of the artist who created it, if the piece is not a great work on its own merit, the price will be at the lower end of the spectrum. Obviously the reverse it also true. Higher quality works by the artist will have the highest prices.
Quality refers to both the content of the work (what the work is about conceptually and pictorially) as well as the technical skill of the work (how well a technique is carried out).
Condition has a great impact on the work as well. This includes an array of types of damage such as abrasion, accretion (dirt or other foreign objects), buckling, blistering, cleavage, craquelure, punctures, or warping (among others). Explanations of these types of damages can be found HERE.
Recent selling prices
This is one of the easiest ways to get a ballpark idea of the worth. Finding recently sold works that are similar in medium, size, etc. by the same artist, is a great starting point for pricing a piece of art. If one or two pieces sell outside of the current assigned price range, then all of the works go up to higher worth bracket.
While it is not a fair price comparison to look at a 17th century etching and a 21st century etching, if you have an artist that did both original oil paintings and prints, the prints would be worth less than the paintings. When looking at the medium, it can only be used for comparative purposes within a single artist’s oeuvre.
In printmaking, the edition refers to the number of identical prints taken from the same matrix (the wood block, screen, stone, etc.). This number is indicated by the lower number of a fraction. For example, “7/32” means that the work was the 7th image pulled out of a total of 32 prints. Generally, the top number doesn’t affect the price. The first pulled image should be identical in quality to the last print. However, an edition of 32 is worth more than an edition of 2,000. For more printmaking terms and their definition, click HERE.
By looking at all of these factors, a buyer, seller, or appraiser can effectively price art for buying and selling purposes. However, if you are needing to price your work of art for tax purposes, it must be done by a professional appraiser certified by one of the major accrediting bodies: AAA, ASA, and ISA. If you have any questions about the worth of a piece you have, feel free to come by the gallery and talk to one of us about your artwork.