Pricey or priceless? Inside the cost of art


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In Winnipeg we are fortunate to have many art galleries showcasing the reasonably priced work of local artists. Some art patrons are unaware of the circumstances that determine what price the artist needs to set their art at to make even a nominal profit.

Jordan Miller, owner of Cre8ery Gallery and Studio, explained, “The price of art comes down to the cost of materials, the time it takes to create, how detailed or abstract and how many years of experience the artist has. The price isn’t only the time invested in the one piece, but the reputation and level of professionalism of that artist. Original art is an original idea, and it takes a lot of time and energy to come up with the most unique ideas.”

When I go into an art store I feel like a kid in a candy store! But the cost of supplies may shock you. Here is a breakdown of the costs of a painting I did, assuming I had to purchase everything new:

Photo by Dave Swiecicki

The supplies required to create a painting such as Big Ol’ Barn, by correspondent Suzanne Hunter can cost over $500.

• One metal easel, $75;

• One 24-inch x 36-inch canvas, $55;

• I used eight different brushes, ranging from $7 to $25 each, for an estimate of $100;

• 15 different colours of Liquitex heavy body acrylic paint, at $13 and $18 per tube, totaling $225;

• One bottle of gloss varnish and one matte to protect the finished painting, $60;

• Hanging wire, $5.

The estimated total of all of this is $520.

Granted, I try to catch sales and I did not use the entire tubes of paint. Brushes could last a few years, but this quick list gives you an idea how much supplies cost. Depending on what kind of art is produced, supplies may be even more expensive, such as those for the potter who needs a kiln and potter’s wheel. Even getting a painting framed can run over $100.

There are other costs to consider, too. Not all artists have the luxury of space and must rent a studio. Galleries collect 30 to 40 per cent commission on sales (one way they make money to stay in business). Many artists choose to have their art documented by a professional photographer so it can be used in promotional material and social media. Not to mention lessons, memberships, and student loans from art school.

Last, there is the matter of accounting for time. Full-time artists depend on sales for a living and mindfully include their time as part of the art’s worth. But those artists producing part-time are no less deserving of being paid for their time, as in any profession.

On your next trip to a gallery, I hope you find something unique for your home. Whatever you’ve paid, you can be assured the price was fairly calculated. Art is a labour of love, and that’s included for free.

Suzanne Hunter

Suzanne Hunter

Suzanne Hunter is a community correspondent for Transcona.

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