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What is an artist worth?

Updated on May 2, 2014

The value of an artist and his/her work

My name is Carmen Perdomo. I'm a gallery owner, and artist.

Many people have passed through the doors of my gallery, and I can say I have heard it all! From questions such as: "Why is this painting so expensive?" and, "do I pay extra to have it signed?" to comments such as: "I like Art but I'm not sophisticated enough to own it," and "Art is for rich people."

I read once an article by an ex-gallery owner that told an interesting story about his best client. The person who bought the most art from his gallery was a homeless person. It intrigued me. A man with no roof on his head values art more than his well-being. This same man, with no roof on his head, believes he deserves the art he buys!

Everything, and everyone has a value, be it sentimental, or monetary, or both. In the case of Art, an artist's name and work also have value, but how do you assess it? .

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.

— George Bernard Shaw

The value behind art and its creator

A world of frustration:

Nowadays, the world of art is just as cruel and frustrated for both, buyers and artists. This is so because an artist produces art that barely sells, and the buyers don't buy because of lack of fear of being ripped off. There is a lack of confidence for both parties: the artist underestimates his time, personal investment, and work, and so he/she sells his/her work for very little. The buyer, on the other hand, underestimates the work of an artist by assuming he/she is paying to much for a bit of paint and few scribbles.

The primary point of this article is to educate first time art buyers (or young/new collectors) to value an artist and his/her creations for what they are. It is only natural to buy products we trust, and like. Art is no exception. One can asses the true value of an artist and his/her work with the following points below:

Red Boat, Ticino through my window, by Carmen Perdomo
Red Boat, Ticino through my window, by Carmen Perdomo

Does the artist invest in his/her work?

Someone once told me that one never buys from someone they don't like or trust, EVER. The process of buying, and/or selling art isn't excepted from this human ingrained behavior.

The difference between a successful artist and an unsuccessful artist is their ability to demonstrate they believe in their art. Successful artists are those who have taken money out of their pocket to promote their art, and/or rent a space to create. Investing in tools, some paint, and a canvas, does not longer show your commitment to the Arts.

An artist worth investing in is an artist who's not scared of overhead costs. The following points can help the "young" collector asses how committed an artist is to his/her work:

1. Does he/she have his/her own studio?

2. Do they go to Art fairs locally, nationally, or internationally?

3. Have they been represented by a gallery or a dealer?

4. Does he/she have patrons keeping his/her back clear off financial worries?

5. Do they take courses to enhance their skills or learn new ones?

In other words, learn as much as possible about the finances of your artist. A stress-free artist is a creative artist. A creative artist is a serious artist and also a serious and sound investment.

Signature Carmen Perdomo
Signature Carmen Perdomo

The brand:

Is the value in a signature?

For an artist, there is nothing more rewarding than to put a signature on an almost dried canvas. It marks an end to many hours of work, but most importantly, it creates a brand.

It is so simple to say that a brand is the artist's name, but it is more than that. An artist's name can carry a promise of quality, good working ethics, commitment, and good reputation. It's that one special asset that contributes to one's value and the loyalty of one's customers. A good reputation is only built up with time.

What special skills do you look for in order to assess the value of an artist and his/her work?

1. Commitment: Does the artist produce art regularly or sporadically? An artist who produces art in a regular basis is a much more trustworthy investment than an artists who produces one piece one year, and another one 10 years later.

2. Quality: good art is interesting, appealing, and thought provoking.

3. Time: the money value of any art is driven by time. The value of the artist's name and work is higher when the artist has been creating art for a long time. This is the tricky, yet funnest part of the business of art. Betting on emerging artists is a riskier investment, but if your bets are right, you might end up with greater capital gains in the near future.

4. Visibility: Is the artist involved in social media and/or art events: An artist who blogs, tweets, and share images of his/her work on facebook or any other social media tool is much more visible, and known, than an artists who doesn't get involved with any of the above.

5. Buyers: who are the collectors buying art from the artist in interest? Are they people who know art? Knowing the artist's clients can help you make a better/educated assessment.

Like it or hate it

Personal taste and personal value

Sometimes the best way to buying art is to let your eyes see and your heart decide. Trust your own taste. Understand the piece. Connect with the meaning behind the work. Not everything that shines is gold after all.

Knowledge is empowering when buying any product, and that includes art. Do your homework. Review the history of the artist in question. There is a lot of talent out there but only a few committed.

I encourage new collectors to take a chance in a new emerging artist if they feel the artist's work has soul and merit. Remember that an an emerging artist has a steeper hill to climb, compared to an established personality. Do not forget that it will take time for his/her brand to blossom.

Always pay what the artist's work is worth: someone who spends money to make art also needs money to re-invest in their projects, be that art fairs, studio rental, awareness of brand, and of course, their time. No one works for free, why should an artist? Pay the asking price if you really love a piece.

So, go out there and enjoy the world of art. Happy hunting for new talent!

More about the business of Art:

Some useful tips!

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