• DW Johnson

Why? Just tell me why?

“I’d like to buy this painting.”

“It's an amazing piece. This artist is popular now.”

“How much is it?”

“This is one of her smaller pieces. It's $1500.00”


When you think about buying art what comes to mind? Heavy debt? Taking out a second mortgage? Selling a kidney? Why is art so expensive?

To answer that question, we first have to break art into two categories. Masters and everyone else. Master artists are those that created pieces a long time ago. And have been deceased longer than most can remember. Masters such as Pollock, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and many others. Their art is normally hundreds of thousands and in many cases millions of dollars. I am not talking about the price of their works. That’s the same question, yes but it has a different answer.

No, I’m talking about the Millers, Nohalls, and Horns. You have never heard of these artists? Exactly. Then why are their paintings thousands of dollars?

I’m sure an art dealer could come up with a reasonable explanation. It might even be true. Though I have personally met more than one art “dealer” that was talking out of his ear.

This is what I think are the reasons some (not all, not mine) artwork process are outrageous.

1) If it's in a gallery setting the artist could be paying the gallery as much as 60% to sell the item for them.

2) They use an expensive medium. For example, woodturners can pay hundreds of dollars for a special wood and end up with only one vase from it.

3) Their craft is labor intensive. Like marble sculpture. An artist might only create three of four pieces each year.

4) The artist uses some proprietary technique or medium. If the artist, say, has to create their own brush because they can’t buy one that is six feet wide.

These would be legitimate reasons for an expensive creation.

But what about an acrylic painting? One that is a standard size like 24x36. It's simple enough to figure out how much the materials cost. The canvas might run you ten bucks. Then you might have twenty-dollars’ worth of paint (that’s a lot of paint) and maybe shipping (that’s the expensive part). All total, it might be 60 or 70 dollars.

But the artist should get paid for his time. Absolutely! But how long does it take to create a painting of that size? Not as long as you would think. I’ve spent an hour on some that size, and I’ve spent two days on others. So, let’s use that as an example.

Factor it out. If you paid $1500 at an art show (no gallery involved) and the artist spent $30 in materials (not shipped you take it home right from the show) and that artist spent two days (16 hours) creating it then the artist's hourly wage is $92 per hour. The consensus is that doctors and lawyers are the highest-paid workers. Maybe that is not true anymore.

Then why are the paintings so expensive? It’s a simple and vulgar answer. And it’s the same answer for phones, cars, and houses. Because people pay outrageous sums then they are charged outrageous sums.

Shameless Plug:

You won’t find high prices for my work. I don’t believe they benefit the collector and art lover. My work is priced reasonably with two factors in mind. Can my fans buy it without breaking their budget, and is it enough to pay my bills?

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