Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Art – Who Decides the Price?

When you consider that some of artist Damian Hirst’s controversial paintings have sold for £50 million, it makes you wonder – just who decides the price of art? Is it the artist? Is it the gallery? Is it even the auctioneer?

What will you pay?

Art, like anything, is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.  It’s subjective – if someone is willing to pay £50 million for a painting then clearly it must be worth that much!  Of course, the more well known the artist, the more their art will sell for.  But in the early stages of an artist’s career, they generally tend to set their own prices.

Artist’s prices

An artist can technically charge whatever he or she wants for their work.  Most artists base their price roughly on the cost of materials used and time taken to complete the work – this gives them a guide price for their item, and gallery or exhibition fees can often be added on top. A new artist couldn’t just wade in with huge price tags; their work has to first be recognised and respected by the art community beforehand. That said, if you sell a piece of work for an outrageous fee because somebody thinks that it’s worth it, brilliant!

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Attending an art auction is often a way to find art at an exceptional price.  Lesser known and up and coming young artists will often have pieces available at auction and you can pick up a bargain, provided there aren’t other serious collectors there with the same idea! The trick when starting out in collecting art is to find those unknown newbies; that is where the real investment possibilities lie!


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn – The Raising of Lazarus

Places such as the bronze sculpture galleries found on Church Street in Kensington will either buy art from young artists or display it on a ‘sale or return’ basis.  This means that if the piece sell, the artist pays a commission to the gallery out of the sale price.  If the pieces don’t sell, the artist will normally just pay a flat fee for displaying their work.  Visiting smaller galleries is often a great way to find artists that you like and reasonably priced pieces.


Many artist nowadays surround  themselves with hype which raises the prices of their art – by creating a buzz on social media, releasing limited editions of their work and staying very secretive, these artists command a high price for their artwork and become the next big thing.  A good example of this type of artist is Banksy, the graffiti artist from London.  Nobody really knows who Banksy is, yet his pieces sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds – there has even been a film made about him, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop.’

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At the end of the day, whilst artists and gallery owners may decide on a selling price for their art, a piece is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Featured Image: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn –  The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp