This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Art Contest & Exhibit and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed “art fanatic”, Clint delights that BoldBrush’s San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office. You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
When I published the 12 Top Things to Never Do on Your Artist Website, I had a couple of people write me directly who disagreed with some of my recommendations.
The item most people disagreed with was, “No Prices.” My position has always been, to sell art online, you need to publish your prices alongside each work of art. A couple of people disagreed with me on that point. I’ve captured the gist of what they told me by combining their objections into the paraphrased “quote” below:
I disagree with your position on posting prices. As a gallery owner for many years, I have found the price will sometimes put the customer off from the start. You want the viewer engaged and to fall in love with the work first, before they even look at a price. Since prices are always negotiable, it seems unprofessional to state them clearly on a website. If a work is not moving quickly in the gallery, I can offer it at a lower price. Once that price is listed on a site, it is difficult to adjust. Correspondence with the customer, after they inquire about a price, also enables me to make the statement that if a work is out of their price range, allows me to offer a lay-away plan, or I can suggest they consider a limited edition print. This can only be done if the client is interested and talking to me, and not deterred to communicate with me because something appears too pricey.
Here’s my edited reply:
Thank you for expressing your thoughts. Reasonable people can, of course, disagree and debate these points.
My belief is prices should not be negotiable, but, that’s a different debate, and, if you want to allow that, I don’t understand why it would be unprofessional to simply add a button next to the purchase button that reads “offers considered.” Have it open a form where they can make an offer. By displaying the price clearly, you give the person an idea of the magnitude of offer that would be reasonable and potentially accepted. Also, people lower prices on websites all the time. If the work doesn’t sell, there’s no shame in lowering the price, or offering free shipping or whatever other alternatives work for you. Websites do that all the time and I’ve never once heard anybody claim it was unprofessional.
It’s not just me who thinks this, by the way. The annual art industry survey by Hiscox Insurance Company agrees.
Here’s the relevant paragraph from their Hiscox online art trade report 2018, which surveyed 831 art buyers from ArtTactic’s list:
Price transparency is key for new buyers
Although existing collectors are used to secrecy and a lack of transparency when it comes to pricing, this is an aspect which clearly doesn’t sit well with new buyers. In this year’s survey, 90% of new buyers said that price transparency was a key attribute and criteria when buying art online.
With 90% of new buyers saying “price transparency” is a key attribute when buying online, I think it’s becoming clear that traditional galleries better start upping their game online or someone else is going to up the game for them and start disinter-mediating the art market. It’s happened in so many other markets and, frankly, I’m amazed it hasn’t happened in art yet.
It’s an idea BoldBrush has considered and revisits from time to time: I’d combine my gallery experience, and our tech experience and move BoldBrush into the business of selling original art. We could definitely modernize the experience by applying all the lessons we’ve learned in building world-class art websites over the past 20 years. If we ever did that, I can guarantee that every painting on our site will clearly display the price, and next to that price there will be a purchase button. If we accept offers, next to the purchase button will be an “Make your best offer” button. As the Hiscox survey indicates, buyers would be delighted at the change from their usual online experience.
There are cases where buyers will put up with a hassle, even if it’s a poor experience. And I think an exclusive is one such scenario: if a gallery has an exclusive with a hot artist, well, then buyers will put up with some hassle in that case, because they will have no other choice if they wish to purchase work by that particular artist. This is a pretty poor excuse to provide a poor experience though. Not only that, it relies on the buyer already having an extreme desire for a particular artist. You still have to cultivate that demand and, with newer buyers that is likely going to have to be cultivated online.
My other point would be, referring back to my original article and the recommendation to post prices, that I was speaking of artist websites, not gallery websites.
You are, of course, free to run your gallery however you see fit and in a way that works best for you. But the truth of the matter is the vast majority of artists with websites don’t even show in a brick and mortar art gallery, or at least not a big one. And many of these artists are usually not going to be as comfortable selling, or will not have the time or availability if a collector calls them. An artist with a day job, or who is teaching a workshop, can’t be sitting by the phone hoping a collector will call because they didn’t post their prices on their website. So they darn well better have the price clearly displayed, and have their site eCommerce enabled if they want to sell their artwork online.
A notable exception: an artist who sells only through their galleries may want to forego displaying prices next to their paintings and instead provide a link to the gallery that is selling the painting. This tends to work best for those artists who sell nearly everything they paint and have established a name for themselves.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. And, although we agree to disagree, I DO very much appreciate it.
What do you think?
I realize this topic recurs often, but it’s an important one and the state of technology is constantly changing. So, now, in 2023, regarding displaying your prices on your website, what do YOU think?
I’ll look forward to your comments!
Until next time, please remember that Fortune Favors the Bold Brush.
BoldBrush/FASO Founder & Art Fanatic
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