How Much Is That Painting in the Window?

With Josh Tripoli

Consider the story about Picasso sketching at a park. A woman recognizes him and asks for a quick portrait. He obliges and produces a drawing in just a few minutes. She is astonished by the beauty and accuracy of the rendering. She thanks him and asks how much for the piece. He replies, “$5,000, madam.” Doubly astonished, she exclaims: “But it only took you a few minutes to make that!” He replies, “No, madam, it took me my whole life.” There is an inherent value in this kind of refinement: the elevation of art to fine art.

Many factors are at play when pricing a work of art. Market trends combined with costs like materials, labor, and gallery representation play a big role in determining value. Many artists go through rigorous training programs, apprenticeships, master’s degrees, and residencies; their skills are honed every day over a lifetime.  A single work of art may be only one finished piece but can be the result of dozens of preliminary studies and reworkings.

Often, the market dictates costs. Sometimes seemingly outrageous costs. Thousands, millions, hundreds of millions. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi recently sold for more than $450 million, breaking a world record.

Brick and mortar galleries endorse and stand behind the work they sell. Some galleries you can walk into and immediately feel like you couldn’t afford anything, but many work to provide options for every budget. Luckily, we live in Wichita, Kansas where the latter is the rule of thumb. Prices can vary from new and emerging artists to the more established and well-recognized, but the simple pleasure of viewing the art in a gallery carries no price tag.

Another element in pricing is the economic principle of supply and demand. The works of Birger Sandzén, one of Kansas’ best known artists, is a great example. In life, Sandzén’s work sold for a fraction of what it’s worth today. Once an artist passes, value and price can increase dramatically not only because of their talents, but simply because they’re not producing anymore. This creates a scarcity, a greater demand, and consequently, a higher price tag.

As such, it is a relief to know that there are always options to help make that special work of art your own. If there is a more expensive piece you really love, galleries will often have payment plans that can make sticker shock less shocking. A gallery can consult with an artist they represent to commission a piece at a lower price point.

Art galleries work to support the arts in a community and will always do the best they can to accommodate your needs, whatever your budget may be.