An Early Memory - Copyright Ryan Williams 2010

What Would You Pay for a Painting?

"No. 5" by Jackson Pollack - 1948
'No. 5' by Jackson Pollack is the highest selling painting to date. It sold for $140 million in 2006. Is this piece worth it? Depends on what the buyer is willing to pay.
I am in the design stages of a pirate themed painting – I will be posting the sketches soon. I also just completed a painting that won’t be displayed until after Christmas to avoid ruining the surprise for the receiver. In the meantime, I have been entertaining and educating myself on other artist’s ideas and opinions. Some discussions have been interesting to say the least.

For example, I recently was involved in a discussion in one of my art groups online about determining the value of a painting once you have completed it. This artist was clearly talented but he didn’t know how much to ask for when selling his work. Then he said something that made me jump into the discussion. He claimed that he saw artists who were asking thousands of dollars for their work and he felt those pieces were not hard to do and that because he could do a better job that his pieces should be worth even more. I rolled my eyes and began constructing my argument against his way of thinking.

So how do I value a painting? Well as I told this artist, the value is not based on level of difficulty – how would I even quantify that? I believe the value of a painting is determined by an assortment of factors including the medium, size, color, subject content, the amount of work involved, demand for the artist’s work, and others. There is simply no formula for artists to follow when assigning value to a painting. To illustrate my point to this person, I gave the example of two paintings of the same subject with different approaches. The subject is a coke can and the first is rendered in realism while the other is painted with an impressionist approach. I asked him that if the realist approach required more detail, does that mean it should be priced higher? There is no simple answer, but personally I would give the impressionist’s piece a higher price.

An Early Memory - Copyright Ryan Williams 2010
'An Early Memory' by Ryan Williams is selling for $550 framed. Is this a fair price? It all depends on what the artist feels the work is worth. For purchase information visit the gallery link.
The impressionist includes his own personal touch to this simple coke can while the realist is only painting everything that they see. If I wanted a painting of photographic quality then why not just take a photo of a coke can? I prefer to own art that contains a little bit of the artist’s soul in it. As for the price I would be willing to pay in this situation, well I would not pay much because the subject is so tame and uninteresting.With that said, when all is said and done, the artist has the right to throw out these considerations and slap an arbitrary price to their work. I prefer not to do such a thing. I price my pieces in a relatively affordable fashion because I feel that I need a reputation for successful work and a larger fan base before I can increase the value. In other words, the demand must be higher for me to raise the value. So there is no reason for me to slap thousands of dollars on my paintings when I know they will not sell for that price.

That is my point though – just because one painting is harder to execute does not make it worth more. I have seen many abstracts with a minimalist approach sell for thousands of dollars. This defies my logic because I don’t understand abstract to begin with, but in the art world nothing is logical and everything is spontaneous. This is the world I enjoy living in. You never know what you will see when you wake up each morning.

2 thoughts on “What Would You Pay for a Painting?”

  1. I think art is very subjective, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with how difficult a piece was to execute. I wouldn’t pay $140m for a painting, but I don’t have $140m, so that’s not really an issue. I think in some cases, though, the actual value of the piece is overblown because of the fame of the artist and what people are willing to do to own that piece (as in your Pollack example above). In that case, it’s just monetary worth, not really value.

    What’s valuable to me in art is whether or not it makes me feel something. Even abstract art can cause me to feel something, since colors are evocative and sometimes in abstract, that’s all you get. I’m sure I would never be considered a art aficionado, but as long as I like what I’m buying, what harm is done?

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