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The Price of Art


So I have been pondering this for a while now and thought I would share. As a fellow artist and businessman, I’ve often wondered what was the most tangible way for artists to price their work. I’ve been around some cool artists and creative types and it seems that the first thing people want to know is how long it took to create the piece or provide a service; whatever it may be. But why would that matter right? When does the clock start? Does it start when you conceived of the idea? In which case the clock may have been running for weeks, months or years in some cases. Or does it start when you actually start the process of creating that actual piece or creative work in question?

So there’s the process of getting the materials, and then there's the point of actually putting the paint on the canvas or making that first chip on that piece of wood for sculpture or whatever. Oh wait! How about all the trial and error process that may have taken years that went into perfecting what you do today to create that piece of art in 20 minutes or 4 hours or 3 days. That part of the process is hard to quantify and even worse, difficult to get the average art collector or consumer to appreciate. When this art piece consumes you and it’s the last thing you think about before you go to sleep and the first thing when you wake up, what is that mind space worth? When you are editing those photographs and you want that perfect lighting to come through, what is that time worth? In surgery, the first cut of the skin with the scalpel is recorded as the start time from which everything flows thereafter. But remember all the pre-op and prep that went into the planning for your surgery? There are formulas by which the value of that surgery is hence calculated but why not the same for art or the creative process?

Picture this; you’re walking down the street and a burst of light or the bend in the curve of the road all of a sudden gives you so much inspiration that you go back to that piece of work and edit, embellish, or refine the work in question. What is that revision worth?

Allow me to make an analogy with food for example. Would you pay more for an “OK" meal that took 4 hours to prepare versus a “kick ass” meal that took 15 minutes? In essence, what I’m saying is, does the time that it took the artist really matter in how you value the work? When an artist has placed a monetary value on their work, they are taking into consideration all of those intangible things I just mentioned. So next time you are standing in front of a piece of work and you are questioning the value, think about the process and appreciate that the artist has spent a lot of value-added time to create that art to speak to your soul.

-Leone Elliott. MD,MBA


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