The True Cost of Original Art

What are We Paying for when Buying Art?

Here at the Bute Gallery, people often ask why an original painting or sculpture is the price it is.  In today’s world of mass-production and replicated ideas, we are used to being able to swap out our ideals of unique and creative for something that ‘will do’.  Sometimes we may simply want something to cover our wall which goes with our cushions, but original art is a different (abstract;) kettle of fish…

Original art is more than something to fill a space; it’s an image which connects with you on a deeper level, and a statement of who you are and what you appreciate.  An original piece of art brings so much with it, and this is where the value lies, but what about the price tag…?

It’s about how much the World wants it

The cost of original art varies wildly, depending on the medium, the age of the piece and how established the artist is.  We know this from news articles which will tell us about the latest sale of a Picasso which has been purchased for hundreds of millions. However, the buyer is not just buying the painting, but the providence, the historical significance and the inherent value of the piece set by the world’s view of its desirability.

Tools cost money!

Art also has a value to the painter which is borne of the practical costs incurred, such as the price of the materials – paint, canvas, brushes, framing, and these can be expensive in their own right.  As an artist, my favourite brushes – used to death – cost over £100; framing can be in the hundreds, and a good quality canvas (one aspect of a painting’s longevity and durability) is also very costly.  Artists have to make a considerable investment before they even put pen to paper (or brush to canvas)

Becoming an Artist takes Time

…and then there’s time.  When you look upon a piece of art, you perhaps think about the time it took to physically put the paint (or other media) onto canvas.  But there’s so much more than that to the process of the finished piece.  You have the design process, which can take months – even years – of building up in the minds eye, the completed picture; perspective, tones, hues and objects that will fit together to form the piece.  

But how do artists know how to put it all together?  It can take many years for an artist to develop their skill and even longer to develop a recognisable style that people will appreciate and link with their name.  For some lucky people, they may have invested many years in studying art professionally, or for others, it may simply be through years of trial and error, learning techniques, by what works and what doesn’t.

Galleries are Gamblers!

There is also an additional cost which artists pay for – the privilege of having their work exposed to the outside world.  Whilst art sells online very well, it is a commodity which many prefer to see ‘in the flesh’. Gallery owners must make difficult choices all the time on which paintings to exhibit, as they have limited wall space and must seek artworks which they feel will sell.  The cost to them of their overheads, is the commission fee that artists pay the gallery in return for providing the opportunity to show their work.

All of these factors play a part in the cost of a piece of artwork or sculpture’s value…so next time you see a piece that calls to you, think about the long journey that has brought the piece to be in your admiration.