Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dealers and Prints

Here we go on another can of worms!

We have artist 'x' who paints say 2 or 3 paintings a month. So a reasonably high turn over of work. He'll probably be a middle ground artist selling his works in the $1000 to $7,500 bracket. Over the course of a year he may sell 50 - 70% of those in say 2 galleries. He comes home with $1800 on average from a $3000 painting. Then the tax man and costs take his income down to probably around $750 from that painting. Now don't foget he's publicly doing well - he's selling 30 pics per year! Yet he comes home with an income of $22,500. Yet publicly he's doing well and being pumped into the odd paper here as local hero, etc etc etc. Yet he can't feed his kids.

So he thinks to himself 'what can I do that can generate more income with little more work?' - cos he's working like mad to create 3 new works each month at a high quality. So he has this brain wave of producing some prints of his work.

The dealer then isnt happy because the wealthy collectors who sit back talking to them complain that the 'value' of the original work is going to drop and they devalue the work. Don't foget the artist is still at home stressed out to the hilt trying to create new ideas whilst not being able to feed his family.

So the dealer tells the artist - 'No we don't want you to make prints - if you do you're not going to be in our gallery any more, because it devalues your work.' So the artist has a dilema.

How does a print devalue an original? I have never yet seen this happen in reality. I've heard a lot of dealers say it does - but never seen an artists work go cheaper or disappear because of a print. In fact all the artists who have produced them in large quantities I've seen go from strength to strength.
So can anyone tell me where the 'reality' of devaluation comes from?

So an artist could produce a print and sell for say $50 profit with a street value of about $250 with a simple frame. That with a 1000 prints sold (10 images with a run of 100 of each) means his income is now at a respectable $50k - 75k. Why is this a problem for most dealers? Can any dealers or collectors prove to me, and any other confused artists, how and why it devalues?


  1. I think if anything - it could potentially increase the value of the original. Lets say there are all these great prints out there making more people are aware of that particular piece - therefore the original becomes more desirable? Just a theory.
    P.s - nice profile pic :)

  2. Thanks Atom for you post. I believe it's actually helping the Dealers do their job of marketing. Old saying is - become a household name...

    In NZ Graham Sydney is generally disliked by the Dealers - I wonder why? He has prints everywhere and I have heard he makes very good money from his paintings as a consequence. (Sydney if you ever come across this post then please let us know if its true!)

    David Shepherd in the U.K. did a similar thing - he ended up too not being liked by Dealers because he was successful - hmmm thats odd. You think the Dealers are shooting themselves in the foot?