Rant 72: Pricing and selling work independently
Robin Cracknell, objection, 2011
Pricing your work is one thing, but being your own dealer is another says photographer Robin Cracknell. He gets to grips with how to sell work on and off-line, without the support of a gallery.
For me, the greatest luxury of gallery representation was never having to explain or justify my prices to potential buyers. Those mysterious numbers (divined mainly through ‘pedigree’, current market trends and gut instinct) were hammered out privately with the gallery director, someone far more objective and qualified than myself.
Although websites are vital, few capture the gravitas of a physical row of pictures in a gallery where visitors (not ‘web traffic’) linger and, importantly, where someone else champions their ‘value’.
We’ve done our thing. Let them handle questions like “Have you got something like ‘that one’ but cheaper?” A gallery, an actual person representing your work and your career, protects you from your worst enemy: yourself. I haggled over my own work recently, virtually giving it away, and just decided: never again.
Without gallery representation, a crucial distance between artist and buyer disappears and we effectively become our own dealer. Initially this feels liberating, because we have autonomy and save on commission but, if a photograph was £1,000 in a gallery before, a buyer will know that half that is a fair starting point for negotiating a studio price.
Maybe I should be happy with a commission-free £500, but is this fair to those who paid double to the gallery? Factor in the awkwardness of friends who want an image but can’t afford it ... “How about you email me a jpg and I’ll pay for a digital print?” ... and you might as well be printing t-shirts and selling them from your garage.
The gallery system isn't perfect, but I'd argue that it has its place. It offers artists protection from the troublesome business of negotiating prices and gives buyers a unique, physical experience of the art object. If buying art becomes just another 'click-to-purchase' transaction, then we are all the poorer for it.
Contributed by Robin Cracknell
Robin is a photographer based in London. His technique combines elements of cinematography with traditional still-photography and involves various mixed media and chemical treatments.
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