Why Does Art Cost So Much? (Part Six – Conclusion)

This is the conclusion of a six part series called “Why Does Art Cost So Much?”.  You can read the rest of the series by going to Part One (Introduction) and following the links at the end of each post through to the conclusion (here).

“Done is better than perfect.”  That perfect quote from Scott Allen pushed me over the edge, stopped my procrastination, and got me to write this thing so I can get to bed and get a few hours of sleep.

"The Passage of Time" by Toni Verdu Carbo. Used with permission.

I have been futzing around all day, wondering how to start, wondering what to say.  We are at the end of a series I have worked on over the past several months, and I don’t know how to finish it!  This isn’t like a college paper, no research paper here, its a blog.  How do I conclude?  How will I end it?  (I’ve gained a GREAT appreciation for my professional writer friends and what they must go through.)

In the end, I determined all there is to do is talk about what we’ve covered.  Since launching the “Why Does Art Cost So Much?” series, we have covered two main expenditures that artists (and all business people) have:  time and money.

I often find that even more than money, the public in general seems to put little value on an artist’s time.  Part of this stems from lack of understanding of what artists actually do.  While we artists could blame “the public” for this, the real power lies in looking at what is missing and what we can do to change any misconceptions.

As an early mentor of mine, Patricia Schmidt said, “Part of our job is to educate the public”.   I find when I take the time to do so, as I have been in this series, the new levels of understanding created between the artist and the public are well worth the hours of work that can accompany the task.

The second part of the equation – the output of money to create, exhibit and market the work – was also greeted with surprise by my readers (sometimes in person if they chose

"Money" by TW Collins

not to post here).  It’s not widely understood that hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars often go into the creation of a completed piece of professional quality art, followed by whatever monies are spent on marketing, getting the work on display and the large commissions charged by the galleries who represent us.

Why would the public know these things?  Is it taught in school?  When a customer asks why a piece of art costs so much, do the gallerists explain about their 50% commission?  When queried directly, do artists talk about the actual cost to manufacture the piece?  The answer is – usually, no.  So why do we expect people outside the realm of professional art to understand?  Why aren’t more artists speaking up to explain what it is we do and how we do it?  I don’t know.  It’s not like magic.  There are no secrets to the illusions created through art.

I hope to encourage more artists, gallerists and other members of the art community to open up and share what is behind what we do.  It will help our collectors get a sense of value in the work, and help everyone else understand who we are, and what we do.

Now that we are at the conclusion, I would appreciate any and all feedback!  I set out with a commitment to dispel some myths and do my part as an educator.  In in the process, I came to an understanding of the need for artists to get a clear picture of their process and costs, then communicate that to whomever is interested.  I believe the mutual understanding gained in the process can only enhance the experience between the artist, collectors and all lovers of art.

Next week … is a Surprise!  🙂  Depending on scheduling, we will either have a guest blog from Denver artist Marie Gibbons or I will post a blog about the process of creating my first mural.  Stay tuned!

Did you know?:  Artists, like other business people in the U.S., are required to pay ALL taxes out of their earnings.  This includes state, federal, social security, etc.  This payout is approximately 15% of what we bring in *before* expenses.  We have no benefits such as paid vacation, health and dental care, it is paid 100% by us.  Time off is money lost.  And if we hire employees, we also have to pay workers compensation, etc.  All of those costs have to be made up for in the sale of our product.  (A parting bit of education about why art costs so much!  😉 )

© 2011 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved


About Amy Buchheit

I am a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters and an Ambassador for Artist Trust. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marylhurst University and have exhibited on regional, national and international levels since 2000. I am committed to connecting with the viewer through my work - stirring buried emotions to the surface for further inspection and introspection. The inspiration for my art comes from direct observations, research of subjects I am passionate about and personal experiences. For more information about my art, workshops and exhibitions, visit my website at http://www.amybuchheit.com. My blog "Fantastic Voyage" can be found at http://www.amybuchheit.wordpress.com, and I can be found on Facebook under Amy Buchheit Art and on Twitter as @AmyBuchheit.
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3 Responses to Why Does Art Cost So Much? (Part Six – Conclusion)

  1. Pingback: Why Does Art Cost So Much? (Part Five – Getting the Work Seen) | Fantastic Voyage

  2. Ollin says:

    Thank you for enlightening us on all this. I think the general public NEEDS to read your series. It’s incredibly important.

    Thank you for your thoughtful, well-informed, and eye-opening comments on my blog. You have truly made me think differently about professional artists these days. I hope you keep going, I read a lot of blogs these days, and I can tell right a way when a blogger has a knack for this sort of thing. Good luck!

  3. Amy Buchheit says:

    Hello Ollin, nice to see you here! 🙂

    Thank you for your encouragement and input. I think once I let go of my stories that “I am not a writer” (silly, since I’ve written creatively on and off since I was a child) and “Words are not my media”, I’ve just let the words flow, edited (thank you to all the English teachers along the way!) and produced the best work I can. To have a working writer/aspiring novelist (is that the correct term?) give me positive feedback is definitely appreciated.

    Feel free to share the link to this series with anyone you know. I am passionate about educating the public about what we do, and agree that *everyone* should read it. Now, how to go about getting them to do that …?

    Thank you again for popping by. I am glad that some of what I have had to say has made a difference in your view on professional visual artists today. That is exactly what I had set out to do – with the intention of bridging gaps and forging connections.

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