“Is this price firm?”
I am often asked as to the “appropriateness” of haggling, or bargaining, with an artist over the price. I’m sure there is a wide variety of opinions but, bravely, I’ll share mine. “Haggling” sounds awful, let’s refer to it as “making an offer.” And my feeling is: in most circumstances, done with discretion, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss price with an artist.
That being said, let me offer a few guidelines, again my opinions, as to how and where this might work. After all, today especially, the real price of anything is what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree upon.
Discretion = important skill. If you barge into a full booth and attempt to undercut a posted price where everyone and his brother is listening, I guarantee you no thinking artist will agree. On the other hand, after you have established a rapport with the artist by discussing his or her work, and no one is in hearing range, it is perfectly fine to say, “I love that piece but right now cash is a bit tight, would you take X for it today?” or “I have my eye on both pieces, they go so well together, if I bought both today would you be willing to take X for the pair?” Neither statement is offensive and both allow the artist to say “No, I can’t” with some dignity. By the same token it also allows them to make a counter offer professionally and with no fear of appearing to undercut previous buyers who came by and paid full price.
Frame removal=no big deal. Don’t go thinking you will get the price down by half if you refuse the frame! Trust me, artists do not pay retail for their frames and most do the labor themselves. And besides, removing the frame is more labor ($), then they have to protect the piece with boards (more $) and then they are stuck with a frame that goes with a certain piece. No money savings here.
End of weekend/month=possibilities. The party is over and all that stuff has to be packed up and carted back home. Sometimes this is the golden hour for bargain hunters. IF the piece you had your eye on still remains you may be able to get a small break since it will be one less piece that needs packing and since this is the time the artist tallies up what they did over the weekend and the bills they incurred. Not a sure bet but a possibility.
Why wouldn’t an artist bargain? Plenty of good reasons if you see it from their perspective. Most artists have mouths to feed and bills to pay, this is how they do it. Did you ask your plumber to charge less or if you could get a discount at the restaurant? Same idea. Realize too that the mark up on art is not that large. Consider materials, time, framing, labor, transportation and marketing….it all adds up.
Consider also that artists work very hard to enter the realm of increasing prices. Value is measured in price points, it’s a fact. Prices cannot be all over the map without discrediting the value. If you do get a “deal” be smart enough to keep that between you and the dealer. Just like some people like brands on their handbags and logos on their cars, many collectors aspire to have certain art on their walls…and as artists, we want to be that signature! Price, unfortunately, is another measure of worth. You’d be upset if what you paid top dollar for was suddenly sold at half that.
Keep in mind, this is only my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of my painting buddies in the Pieces of 8!
this post also appears at www.cindymichaud.com