Andrew Kay hand forges his award-winning wildlife sculptures from solid mild steel. His work can be seen gracing the landscape and gardens both in Britain and abroad, with his client list including peers, viscounts, countesses, and celebrities, including Richard Curtis and Sir Tom Stoppard. Here, he shares advice in relation to the pricing of art.
(1) Price doesn’t always equal value
Freud famously talked about how we tend to value things that cost us more. With something like art, where it is often difficult to compare like for like, you shouldn’t always assume that because something is expensive it is a fine piece. This is also the case if something seems more affordable than you would imagine. Some artists are very talented but are not good businesspeople so if you think it’s a steal, it just might be. Price shouldn’t be your guide as to a piece’s value. Some ways to work out the value of a piece of art are:
- look at the artist’s career and track record – there is a big difference in price between an artist who is established and one who is just starting out;
- consider the cost of materials – bronze sculptures for example are intrinsically more expensive than steel work due to the material used;
- find out whether the piece is a one-off.
But when it comes down to it, it is often about how much you are willing to pay.
(2) Trust your visual response
The art world, and especially the contemporary side, has a habit of intimidating people. It often makes them feel like they don’t understand enough to even consider choosing a piece of art. Much of the mystery of art has been created specifically to increase its perceived value but you should remember that the quality of a piece, and your decision about whether you should buy it or not, is simply down to what you see. Do you consider it beautiful? Does it move you? Try not to involve friends and family for advice as it is a very personal decision. Your eyes and your own taste provide all the information you need to assess whether a piece is worth buying or not. And whether you will love it or not.
(3) Buying direct is cheaper than going through a middleman
It might not always be possible to do this, if you see a piece you are keen on that is already being sold through a gallery, but if you can go direct it is normally more affordable. Galleries can mark artwork up by as much as 50%, but there is sometimes some wiggle room on the price – usually between 5% and 20%. It is also worth getting to know the artist and seeing if there is anything not on show that might fit your needs even better. Or you might be able to commission them to work on something specific.
(4) Artist transparency
If an artist lists prices on their website they are more likely to be transparent in their pricing. If it is a more “price on application” situation then there is a danger that you might be charged what the artist thinks you can pay. If you have a particularly aristocratic accent, or a title before your name, maybe ask a friend to make the first approach. It also might be an idea to go into discussions by making your budget clear, rather than asking for the price of a specific work.
(5) Art as an investment
The good thing about art is that its value doesn’t rise or fall with the stock market. Its value will likely rise over time, especially if the artist is well regarded, and while it does you can enjoy the piece in the comfort of your own home. If you are buying art as an investment, choose time-tested artists or you could spread the risk by taking a punt on a few fresh faces.
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