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Putting a price on artworks

15 Jul, 2015 - 00:07 0 Views
Putting a price on artworks Every work of art has a price. Renowned artists like Dominic Benhura sell their work at a high price

The Herald

Every work of art has a price. Renowned artists like Dominic Benhura sell their work at a high price

Every work of art has a price. Renowned artists like Dominic Benhura sell their work at a high price

Knowledge Mushowe Art Zone
SOME artworks are sold for millions of dollars. But some, like the majority of contemporary Zimbabwean artworks, change hands for a song. What makes a Van Gogh worth millions of dollars and any of our local artworks almost worthless?

The decision ultimately rests with the artist and the immediate market of his work.

How then do artists settle on a price for their work? Why are some works of art more expensive than others?

The problem with valuation of art is that there seemingly is no universal standard.

Because of this, some foreign art collectors have in recent years been accused of exploiting local stone sculptors by buying their products on the cheap and reselling them abroad for a profit.

Airport and roadside artists are especially susceptible to the scam because of their location and their knack for creating replicated crafts from single models.

The sub-contraction of artists by multi-national companies in Zimbabwe has given locals a fresh method for evaluating their work. International companies usually offer between $50 and $60 an hour for work done on their behalf, provided a rough estimate is given before the commencement of a proposed project.

The implication for visual artists would be for them to put a price on their work based on the amount of time they spend labouring on it.

However, it is difficult for one to accurately determine the duration because a lot of the work, probably more than half depending with each individual, is emotional and mental.

Another problem with hourly valuations is evident in the advertising industry.

When a job reaches the advertising agency studio, there is the brainstorming and the actual work that the client rightly pays for.

But employed designers fill in logs that tell their superiors what they are up to for every hour they are at work.

As a result clients end up paying for the designer’s time on Facebook and the time he/she spends doing personal activities because these do not appear on log sheets.

Agencies cannot complain over this mainly because they do not lose anything.

If anything, they stand to gain from the inflated prices of the design products created in their studios.

Clients are therefore likely to pay more for designs created using the logging system.

Design products such as T-shirts, logos and advertising templates may have valuations that are not at all related to the hourly rate system.

This is because when they are transferred from artist to client, it is not just the product exchanging hands, but the reproductive rights as well.

Logos are likely to be used on assorted merchandise and over a very long period of time.

The client therefore pays for the permission to repeatedly use the design whenever required.

A logo is visual shorthand created to stand for the company’s values, aspirations and objectives that is used as the symbol of an entire organization.

It is obvious that an approved logo design should cost the client a lot.

But the misconception among the smaller commercial entities is that a logo is a simple combination of lines, colour and typography that should cost very little.

Another consideration for art pricing is the cost of raw materials.

It would not make any business sense for painters, for example, to sell their products for a price less than the cost of the canvas and oil paints used.

Some illustrators use very expensive pens and inks, so the price of their work has to accommodate the cost of the materials used.

The objective of artists is not to break even; they earn a living through the selling of their work so it is not unreasonable that there is clear intent by them to make a profit.

How big should the profit margin be?

The decision on how much an artwork should cost ultimately rests with the artist.

Exclusivity has much to do with the value of an artwork.

If an artist feels that his or her work is so good and so different from others, that the work cannot be easily replicated, then the price would obviously be high.

This underlines the importance of style in art production.

What devalues art is the high level of probability that anyone can redo the same thing in a small period of time using minimal effort.

If the animal sculpture found at Avondale shopping centre looks exactly the same as that found along Airport road, then the price cannot be high, regardless of the amount of time the different sculptors take to produce them.

The majority of artists have made a conscious decision to develop their styles to the point where their works become exclusive.

If one style can be traced to one artist, then there is likelihood that the products made as a result carry fair prices to both artist and client.

For artists to make money off their work, they have to earn respect by proving that they are original in both their approach and execution techniques.

They also have an obligation to find a market for their work.

If a professional artist is living below the poverty datum line, there is a chance that he or she is yet to identify the right market for the art products.

The higher probability though is that the art does not strike a chord with potential clients anywhere, because there really is no difference between it and all the average work all over town.

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