Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How is the Internet Changing Art Pricing?

The Market Affects the Price

When you sell your art online, an equally beautiful painting is often just a click or even an inch away. Online, people can browse a lot of art very quickly with almost no effort.

This is in contrast to traditional brick and mortar galleries, with their local foot traffic where gallery owners control the supply, set prices, and act as the gatekeeper to what buyers can or can’t see. They handhold buyers through the buying process and work to help enhance the perception of value by pricing high.  Your art is expected to be priced the same in all your galleries regardless of the local market. And, you are expected to raise your prices over time to increase the perception of creating a return on your buyer’s investment.

Inefficient Markets Attract Middlemen

Brick and mortar galleries are middlemen and they take a big cut. They can do this because without them the art market has traditionally been very inefficient. The traditional market consists of a sparse set of art buyers and a sparse set of art producers, and without galleries it was difficult for them to find one another. When markets are inefficient, middle men pop up to facilitate.

The Internet is an Efficient Market

Not so, on the internet. The online art market is very efficient. Buyers still get attached to particular artists of course, but the effort in finding art is very low and the supply and demand are large and global. This makes art into much more of a commodity, which simply means price is important.

What all this comes down to is if you want to sell your art online you need to understand that the rules of pricing are different and price your art accordingly.

How do you Price?

Okay, so the rules have changed. Now how do you know how much to fix price your art or where to start bidding in your auctions?

It is easy for artists, especially those who have sold well in galleries, to go too high – or even worse, to not price their work at all.

Don't Frustrate your Buyers!

Let’s talk about the last scenario first – not entering in a price for your paintings. When you do this in DPW, it simply says “Contact Artist for Price.”

One rule of sales that the internet has not changed is: don’t make it difficult for someone to buy what you are selling!

As soon as someone has to contact you to simply find out the price of a painting, suddenly another equally beautiful painting with a price looks much more attractive.

Volume over Price

Another reality is that in painting more frequently, smaller, and selling on the internet, you can benefit from high volume over high price. Instead of selling 2 large paintings in traditional galleries each month for $2,000 each with a 50% gallery commission, online you are trying to sell 10 to 20 small paintings for $100 each with little or no commission. The end result is you get to paint more and due to the greater volume, your sales are more resilient.

Selling Low to Build a Following

While it can be difficult to do emotionally, especially when your ego is understandably strongly tied up in your work, pricing or starting your auctions low to build up a following is often effective.

I wrote one of our featured artists, Tilen Ti, just after he joined us and suggested he was starting his DPW Auctions too low. I told him we were new and he likely would not enjoy a sufficient bidding volume enough to drive his prices up to a worthy level. He replied he knew what he was doing and that it was his strategy to build a following. And do you know what? It worked!


Pricing is difficult because it is tied up with your sense of self worth as an artist. The more impersonal you can approach it, the better. One of the most important disciplines you can practice when starting out selling online is to persevere and experiment – with what and how you paint, perhaps - but definitely with how you sell and price.

© 2012  David Marine

(photo credit: Hoboton)


  1. Thank you, David - as one who is just getting started with internet marketing, it is so helpful to have your advise and guidance.
    While I'm here, I'd like to ask a question - After posting an image on DPW, can it be removed or deleted from the site? (if, for instance, it hasn't sold and you decide it doesn't really hold up with the rest of the work in your gallery)
    Thanks so much,
    Anne Bevan
    84 Harlowe Noblitt Road
    Old Fort, NC 28762

  2. Dear Annie,

    Welcome to DPW - we are very happy to have you!

    Yes, you may hide a painting (the Hide checkbox) or delete it from your Art Tracking grid.

    Please don't hesitate to ask us questions or for help at You can also click the Contact Support item in the my DPW Links dropdown menu at the top of the site. That way your question will go through our support system and you will get a quicker reply.


    - David

  3. I agree emphaticically with the idea of building a following. 12 years ago I started selling small watercolors on Ebay starting for $1 At first, most of my 8x10 paintings sold for under $10, but it wasn't long (3-4 months) that I was getting repeat customers who were raising the bidding price with my work, to a point of several hundred dollars per painting! I often wish I hadn't stopped to go back to school, because my following from back then is long gone, and I'm starting all over, but I do agree that it takes time and patience, and even if one of my daily paintings only sells for the lowest asking price, it will be out of my studio where it is only seen by me, and on the wall or office of someone else and likely seen by many more.....Great article and advice!

  4. Hi David,

    Thanks for the article. I am new on your site, don't know my way around that well, and being 56 yrs old, well simply put, I'm not that good at the PC.....My question, can I put a painting on auction even after it has been in my gallery for sometime?

    Hope to build up at least a small yet dedicated following soon.

    Thanks in advance for your reply,

  5. Dear Alberto,

    You are very welcome.

    Absolutely, please include that painting in your DPW Gallery. The intention of the gallery is to represent your body of work and not just what you have available for sale. In the end though, it is up to you.

    Going forward, it is best for questions to be sent to You can also click the Contact Support item in the my DPW Links dropdown menu at the top of the site. That way your question will go through our support system and you will be sure to get a quick reply.

    Welcome to DPW!

    - David

  6. Great article! I've sold my artwork through art galleries for many years, but the art market has changed. I'm now selling online too and I love it. I get to spend more of my time painting when I'm selling online. Thanks for the information about selling online.

  7. This is really an informative article.

  8. David,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this very informative article. DPW just gets better every day! We as artist members are very fortunate to have a team like you and Carol :)

  9. Hi David: I am really struggling with this whole pricing difference. I am in several traditional galleries, and am selling OK -it has dropped recently however. Now that I am on 2 high profile online galleries, I am conflicted about the pricing thing. I need to maintain my gallery prices, or else my collectors will feel ripped off. But I am realizing that my gallery pricing just doesn't fly online. As I am a plein air painter, and do most of my work in the 8x10 to 12x16 sizes, I cannot offer small works online and larger ones at the galleries. I don't want to ditch the bricks and mortar galleries as I believe I need them to keep up my artistic reputation in our city, but the online sales are beginning to come in too. Anyone have ANY suggestions???

  10. Dear Sharon,
    I understand your conflict. My wife, Carol Marine, faced the same issue. Her decision, after much time and going back and forth, was to finally get out of all her galleries, except a few who said they would prefer to simply try to sell their remaining stock of her work.

    She had to consider the same issues as you are - pricing equity, collector relations, and artistic reputation.

    For Carol, in the end, it was a business decision. Since she was making far more selling online than in the galleries, she decided to fully commit to online sells.

    Of course, your situation and therefore decision are perhaps different, however you are not alone in making it. And, it may change over time.

    Take care,

    - David

  11. Hi again: I did talk to Carol about her decision -which was in the making when I saw her. She said that she thought she would offer her larger works online, but as of yet I haven't seen them posted. Does she show them online somewhere else?
    Thanks for answering back

  12. Thank you, David, for a great! and refreshing article!

    My eyes are open!

    And I will be posting prices on all of my DPW artworks asap,...with the freedom to price them lower and paint more often!!

    I literally feel freed from being tied to brick and mortar gallery pricing!


  13. Great article! I missed this the first time around, thanks for sharing the link again.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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