Art Pricing and Gaining "Exposure"

art pricing

I cannot count on 2 hands how many times I've been asked to display or provide free artwork somewhere for "Exposure". 

In the video and article you'll learn:

  • that with exposure there is risk (your art and art business)
  • the questions to ask when you are confronted with someone wanting to help you get exposure
  • how the art pricing calculator shows exactly what you are risking 

Introduction About Artist's Exposure

Let's talk about exposure. So all of us artists have been approached probably at least once or twice about,

"Hey, let me get your artwork and I can put it up in such and such place and it'll be great exposure for you."

"Or how about you do this painting for me and I'll show it to so-and-so? It'll be great exposure for you."

So here's the problem with exposure. It's great for:

  • the person who wants free artwork, and
  • it's great for the artist who wants to get rid of artwork out of their studio and is running out of space.

That's who it's great for.

If you actually want to earn an income with your art, that sort of exposure is like, sorry, it's like a slap in the face.

It's rude for people to even ask, but people do it and they think it's okay.

Nobody will ever go to Target and go, Hey, can I have this purse? Because it'll be great exposure for Target as I walk around with it and say, Ooh, look what I got at Target. They don't do that, right? Nobody's going to do that with a Louis Vuitton either - the pieces speak for themselves. Same with you. People are going to buy your artwork and brag about your artwork because they bought it and they value it.

 art pricing for artists and why exposure puts artists at risk

You can buy this T-shirt here that says "Exposure is for nudists, not for artists".  - LOVE IT!

My Experience...

I'm going to give you a very specific example of the process I went through with a gentleman who offered to put my artwork in his office as exposure.

So this is what it looked like. This happened with a finance guy and an accountant guy who were in my business networking group. So both of these guys, finance and accounting, know how money works. 

I'll go with the accounting guy first.

The accounting guy said, 'hey, why don't you come down to my place of work? I've got a lot of great walls where your artwork can be displayed on. I can do it for you for 10% commission. It'd be great exposure."

So, he wants:

  • me to bring my art into his place of business
  • a commission.

That's fine. He's got a brick-and-mortar. I'm more than willing to pay a commission, 10% is like nothing, especially compared to the galleries and stuff. So I set up a meeting with him and I go to his place of business.

That's when things started falling apart...I noticed from the outside of his office, is that it looked like a house with about five parking spaces in the front. So what that immediately tells me is he doesn't have a lot of traffic...

So. I haven't made a final decision yet. I walk inside his office, I notice the wall is slightly leaning outwards...let that sink in for a sec....the wall is slightly outwards!

And I was like, "Are you guys worried about that? It's kind of looks like it's leaning.'.

He's like, "Oh, well, the landlord is supposed to fix that. And I'm thinking about buying this business or this location or everything. But he wants this amount and it's not that good that I did." (or something to that affect - he babbled and I stopped listening because the wall was freaking leaning!!!)...

So, in my mind, I'm stuck on the wall freaking leaning. So that was the second or third red flag...

but maybe I'm I keep going...

I look over to my left. There's like this 1970s greenish couch, that a cat clearly loved, with a wood paneling wall, and it was completely bare. And he was like,

"Yeah, this is where I was thinking you could put a really large painting up and you know, if it sells then I would take 10%. And this way it'd be great exposure for your art with my clients."

My response "Okay, well, I've got some questions for you. The first question is, who's liable for business insurance here? Are you expecting me to cover it in case your place catches on fire or that wall caves in? Or are you covering my piece?

And he's. "Oh, I haven't thought about that. That's like, okay, well, it's definitely something we want to talk about."

" And my second question is, how many people do you get through that comes through this place of business every week?" He said, "Oh, I probably have about five clients a week."

"Okay, so you're wanting me to put a three-foot by four-foot painting in here that would be anywhere from 10 to $15000 for five people a week.

The likelihood of that actually selling is probably, what, 2%? And you're not covering liability, and you're taking a commission....

I don't think this is going to be a good situation. What I recommend for you is that you purchase a piece and you own it, and that way there's no liability from my perspective or your perspective. You own it outright and your clients get to enjoy beautiful work. Should I ever receive any work from that sale with people oohing and aahing all over it, I'd be happy to give 10% to a nonprofit animal welfare organization on behalf of your name."

So needless to say, that didn't work out - he was looking for something free and trying to take advantage of me (never underestimate a woman with 2 advanced degrees and a ton of common sense, but he was a man and they have a tendency to think we are stupid....just saying - I have NEVER once been asked to display art for exposure by a woman - always 100% a man - I'm not being sexist, I'm simply stating a fact of my experience).

So but I think you got the point, which is there are costs involved in the exposure and they expect you to take the risk of that exposure.

2nd Story about exposure request...

And the finance guy kind of went through a similar situation where it was basically the same questions.

And the funny thing is, none of the other artists that were in the finance guy's place (who also had zero sales) asked any of these questions! 



Questions to Ask BEFORE You Agree to "Exposure"

  • Who is liable for the insurance to cover the piece in the event of a fire, theft, property damage, etc?
  • What is the through traffic?
  • What do they have in mind to give you "exposure" besides hanging on the wall? (perhaps a meet and greet with clients at a private- client-only party...)
  • What is the commission percentage?
  • How will they accept payment and pay you (the artist) when the piece sells?
  • Are they collecting the tax on your behalf and submitting it to State and Local tax authorities?

Remember, that's your artwork on the line.

Once you get a verbal agreement, put EVERYTHING in writing.  An email is sufficient that says what you agreed on and requests them to confirm or let you know if you missed/misinterpreted anything.  And close the email with an action item from them, like "please let me know what day and time work for you for me to hang my artwork".  When they respond with a day and time, that means they agree with the terms of the email. 

If you do not get a response, follow up 4 days to 1 week later (people get busy and forget).  If they don't respond to that email follow up with a funny email that encourages engagement and if they don't respond to that one - yep - you are being ghosted. Which stinks, BUT at least your art and your business didn't take on unnecessary risks!

 So my point is, no, no, your rights, no what you need to do. And if you have questions about your art and what you should price it at, that is where the art pricing calculator comes into play.

How the Art Pricing Calculator Helps You With Knowing Your Exposure Risk

So I have this Art Pricing Secrets Book book (check out the video above to see the art pricing calculator tool in action).  

This tool becomes extremely powerful to you to guide you in knowing the risk of property value when somebody is asking for a particular piece and they say, 'Oh, well, it'd be great exposure'.  You'll be able to respond confidently that "I know this piece would sell for $507".

Then you can guide them towards purchasing the piece as a better investment for their property after all would they like for you to come in and put a bunch of holes in their wall with nails sharing various pieces? Or would they rather have a static display of artwork that they own and can talk about? So that they can have the satisfaction that they own this piece

I love the Art Pricing Formula detailed in this book and associated spreadsheets because I know my risk and that client will also know that I'm going to put in a 10,000 piece on their business insurance.

There are a lot of great uses for this art pricing calculator tool (more articles below). I would encourage you to go to order the book Art Pricing Secrets: Ethically Pricing Creativity. The Formula That Works., and know your rights.

Until next time, stay safe, happy and healthy and happy creating. Bye, guys.

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