How to Afford ArtOr Why Art isn't only for The One Percenters
How to afford art?
This question is not usually posed as a question, rather it comes out as a statement:
"I can't afford art", or
"Well, when I become super rich...", or
"I wish I could afford original art".
Art historically has been classified as a "luxury item".
We think of Victorian kings and queens,
super expensive Sotheby's auctions or
well-known masters displayed in the best museums in the world.
In this short blog post, I'll try to argue with myself or maybe even convince you that
Art can be made affordable!
Please choose to agree or completely disagree with me.
Your comments are welcome.
Art on the left is by Kwon Neung. Photos by Max Khusid from Art Central, Hong Kong, 2019
Limited Edition PrintsAffordable Masterpiece
Let's review two possible options and the economics of each
- a limited edition print of an expensive painting from a well-known artist,
- a limited (or not) edition print of a much less known artist.
By the way, a limited edition print is also named "giclee"
Please read my in-depth article on giclee and limited-edition prints
So, Vladimir Kush is a super popular surrealist artist.
His popularity means a search with his name on Google returns, almost 5 million hits(!),
His Instagram has 13,000 followers, and 90,000 people subscribe to his Facebook page.
If you'd have access (usually quite expensive) to fine art auction sites,
you'll see that both his original works AND prints are frequently sold at art auctions
Some of his original artworks are priced in the range of $100,000 dollars.
So that for the 99-percenters, his original art is not affordable.
His prints are in $1000-2000 range, and since there's an open and liquid market for them,
Their price is justified. Not only his originals but also his limited prints are an investment.
Whether they are a good or bad investment will depend on the market
Yet, if you would like to have a piece of a well-known contemporary artist,
Have confidence that it is a high-quality piece, endorsed by the artist
Getting a limited edition print or giclee is both affordable and makes financial sense.
Prints from a Local ArtistAre they worth it?
What about a print from a much less known artist, is it a sound financial decision?
Here's what one artist thinks:
"Look, for some reason, every time I buy someone's print,
it ends up being rolled in the drawer somewhere.
I mean, prints also need framing, and a nice frame will cost more than the print itself."
Let's run through real-life economics. Why is that so?
An riginal painting 26x32 inches one can probably get for $700-$2000, $1500 on average.
A basic acrylic print at Costco of this size will cost about $200.
You'll also need a very high-resolution photo, so $50-100 for professional art photography
The artist invested a lot of time and money to paint the original and to create the print
So let's say at least $200 for the artists work herself.
So, $200(print)+$100(photo)+$200(artist) = $500 for acrylic print of 26 by 32 inches.
And that's just paper at this point
A basic custom wooden frame should cost an additional $150,
or you can get one at Michael's for about $50 on sale.
Personally, Michael's frame is like IKEA furniture or Maruchan Ramen Noodles
Yes, it is "food", but Michael's frame won't work for high-quality artwork.
Final price? $1500 original painting vs. $650 print.
Yes, you saved some money. But only 30% went to the artist.
The long-term value of the work is minimal and it may end up in some closet eventually.
(The only exception is the artwork that can only exist as a print, e.g. Pep Ventosa's work).
Original ArtPaying the fair price
Original art prices vary greatly. How do you know if you're overpaying?
I wrote an in-depth analysis on fair art value and art appraisal
But here will present the highlights
One way to price paintings is by price per square inch
Price / (Width of the painting times height in inches)
Not the best measure but acceptable for the simplicity sake
I recently surveyed 107 mostly American but some international artists
On average, their prices were $1.8/square inche for 30+ inch on a side paintings
$2.8/square inch for 20-30 inches on a side, $2.85 for 10-20 inch paintings
So for example, the asking price for 18x24'' work would be (18*24)*$2.8 = $1200
However, that's half of the story.
Let's review the data from one of the leading online art sales platforms
What do people actually pay for original art work?
According to them, the actual price paid is about $1/square inch
So in our example, this actual sell price would be closer to $500 (18*24*$1)
In my survery, about 25% of artists priced their work for $1/sq inch, and 25% for $1-$2/sq inch
And so $0.5 to $2 per per squre inch range, that's where the good deals are
Does it mean that expensive works don't sell? Absolutely not
Is there a lot of great art outside of this range that is worth every penny?
Yes, of course. Esp. if the artist has a history of sales, gallery representation, etc
These are just general guidelines to help you navigate the Wild West of Art Prices
Monthly Installment Plans
A lot of the expensive items we buy in the US are actually bought with a monthly installment plan. Our cars, our houses, expensive electronics, even our cell phones are often financed.
Anything above $1000 is probably beyond monthly discretionary income for most Americans
These purchases are great candidates for the installment plans.
Remember when an iPhone used to cost less than $500, and we didn't need a monthly plan?
Well, Apple has since raised its prices and now markets its price as a "monthly price".
Does it mean we buy less iPhones?
Not at all. Apple is still making great money, and we're still buying its precious phones.
(And how do I know this? Well, I worked there for almost a decade)
Art market is finally catching up to the idea, and Art House SF is realizing how important it is.
In October 2019, Art House SF partnered with ArtMoney to provide this option.
And this plan is zero interest to the buyer, i.e. we're covering the interest.
In November 2019, we partnered with Square with the second alternative plan.
Does it make the final price lower? No.
Yet, we still buy houses, condos, cars, furniture, etc. in the US, and
they are all financed primarily by the monthly installment plans.
This "pay later" economy has its own disadvantages but, overall had a net positive effect on the affordability of large-ticket items.
If art is important to you, consider low or zero-interest monthly installment plans to finance it.
You'll quickly notice that besides financing/mortgages/monthly installment plans, another commonly used financial "affordability" vehicle is lease or rent. So why is it not as common in the art world?
That's a good question. I think it might be because most artists who work with customers directly don't want the hassle. Yes, it's a lot more work, shipping/handling costs for an artist to cover and deal with. What about insurance for the art piece as well? Who is going to cover that cost?
Galleries can probably handle the extra work, financial overhead and insurance needed, yet also don't offer this service often. Why is that? Is it possible that since galleries often do not own the art they're selling (remember, they don't pay artists upfront!), art renting becomes very complicated for them as well? It's like imagine you're trying to rent your apartment if you're the renter yourself. Your landlord will probably not be happy. While if I own my apartment, then renting it out is much easier.
The advantage of renting art is that a) low monthly payments, and b) you can return it if you don't like it. And the disadvantage is, of course, you don't really own it and might be paying more in the longer-term. I would be looking for models where the entire rent amount you pay is applied to the principal if you choose to buy. For example, if you're renting a $5,000 piece for $100 for 12 months and decide to buy it after a year, then you'll just owe $3,800 in the end.
So while this is not as common yet, ask if the artwork you like can be rented
Our gallery offers this option and I hope this becomes a trend for others as well.
Art as part of Interior Design
The national average for kitchen remodeling is $16,600 or $150 per sq. ft
This roughly translates to about $1 per square inch
And at the same time, Americans spent additionaly on furnuture:
- $2,200 for living room, $1,400 for kitchen furniture, $3,600 for bedroom
So having spent $20,000 on remodeling, how much can one spend on artwork?
And if our appliances are top-of-the-line, our counters are made of granite, our furniture is hand-crafted wood, why should our artwork be plastic?
One way to approach this dilemma is to factor in the cost of the art in overall remodeling costs.
In fact, most commercial real estate developers add the price of artwork to the overall cost.
And commercial buildings probably need art a lot less than one's cozy and beautiful house.
What if we include artwork in your remodeling/furniture budget?
And don't keep it as an afterthought. The numbers need to make sense.
If $20,000 is budgeted on remodeling, spending $50 on the artwork seems too low.
Alternatively, purchasing a $10,000 painting for IKEA-furnished apartment might be too much.
In fact, Architectural Digest magazine recommends setting aside 10-15% of overall budget on art
And if we do the math, for $2000 (10% of $20k), a lot of great original art or prints can be purchased
And last but not least, a great article on the Importance of Art in Interior Design.
Affordable Art in Art House SF
George AbramidzeGeorge Abramidze, an innovative artist from Georgia who makes everyday objects come alive
Pep VentosaPep Ventosa is a world-renown master of photography and especially collage photgraphy. Buy his authentic, signed, limited edition prints here.
Art Under $1000Original art for sale under $1000