A follow up to Alla Prima’s Rules for Buying Original Art . . . An Appraiser’s Tips for Artists.
1. Be consistent in your published pricing whether you sell through a gallery, at an art fair or through your website. Your credibility will suffer if you don’t.
See how a former South Dakota artist, Bryan Holland, now in St. Peter, MN, features work from his studio for sale alongside artwork available in a gallery on his website. This consistency and collaboration with his gallery is good business. (Picking on Bryan because I recently appraised some of his work.)
2. Don’t judge art buyers by their appearance. I have walked through seven-figure properties full of kitsch and the next day seen impressive, high value original art in trailer homes.
3. You’re known by the company that you keep. Be aware of your “comparables”—that is, artists with a similar style and subject matter at a similar level in their career who sell in a similar geographic market. Appraisers use a spectrum of data to value artwork—whether you like it or not, it will include your own work as well as that of comparable artists or artworks the appraiser deems relevant.
4. Be judicious about giving your artwork away. Sales data from fundraising auctions can’t be used to determine the Fair Market Value of your work. Plus, you can’t deduct the Fair Market Value of your artwork from your taxes when you donate—the IRS only allows you to deduct the cost of your materials.
James Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (1871) popularly referred to as “Whistler’s Mother” is considered by many to be the most significant American artwork that resides outside the US. It’s also a REALLY big painting–right about 5 feet on each side. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons.)
5. Title your artwork. If you don’t, someone else will and you might not like it. I have inventoried many an artwork as “Unknown: Pink Abstract” [you fill in the blank of the dominant color]. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Whistler’s most famous painting (now known popularly as “Whistler’s Mother”) is actually titled Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1. Not an exciting title, but a tremendous painting.
6. Sign it. SOMEWHERE . . . on the actual work (the back is fine—just be sure it is on the artwork, not the stretcher bar or framing). Don’t open the door for someone else to take credit for your work. People take unsigned hand-created work and add signatures to it to make a buck. It’s not cool, but it happens. (Ever hear of disbarred attorney and convicted felon Ken Walton? Yikes.)
7. Photograph and inventory your art before it goes to a new home. It doesn’t need to be professional photography—use your cell phone. If you’re like Jackson Pollock, you’re lucky enough to have someone do this for you. His wife, Lee Krasner, was fastidious tracking and recording his work which is one reason he is the art historic behemoth he is today. Plus, this leaves a fantastic digital trail for your kids and grandkids when you stop creating.