14 May 2012

Talking About Money


My mother taught me that there are four things you shouldn't talk about: money, religion, sex and politics. I've hit all those taboos at one time or another, on this blog and in my work. Lately, since I started working on the Loaded series, the big topic has been money.

My proposal for the A.P.E. Gallery show that opened last week was to show my large prints and also to print some money the night of the reception. I decided that in addition to printing the money I also wanted to talk with people about how much was reasonable to charge for a 17-note packet of printed currency. I wrote up a list of all the money I had spent out of pocket ($678.23) and how many hours I had spent (98) to produce a total of 60 packets of money and asked for people's opinions.

Here are some sample responses.

On this blog, a commenter named Curt gave me a formula to use that even included the gallery's 25% take:
If you want to make an hourly rate R and assume you'll sell all of the bundles in a short amount of time, then the math is simple for determining the price P: costs = expenses, i.e.

98*R + 678 = (60*P)*0.75

Thus for rates of 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 per hour, you'll want to get 15.07 36.84, 58.62, 80.40, 102.18, 123.96, 145.73 or 167.51 for each bundle
I thought $20/hr was more than reasonable, but that would mean charging almost $60 per packet. My original thought had been that the packets should cost closer to $1 per note, more like $20 or $25 per packet, so this was disappointing.

Ready to start the demo

My Facebook friends had varying opinions. Several said $60 to $100 was reasonable for art. Everyone agreed that it was practically impossible to determine how much a hypothetical buyer would be willing to pay.

Back on this blog, Tibi noted the educational value of revealing the artist's costs. I definitely had that as one of my goals. Diana suggested a sort of sliding scale. I liked that idea, so I decided to use that at the gallery on Friday night.

Talking about the big prints
I set the money packet price at $35, giving myself about $9 per hour, but asked people to consider all the factors I had laid out, including the gallery take of 25%, if they purchased a packet of bills.

Here are some things people said at the gallery:
$35! That's steep!
If you're going where I think you're going with this, I hope these aren't for sale! I mean, this art is anti-money... please tell me it's not for sale!
I'll take a packet for $60.
You could make more money babysitting.
That's expensive!

 It was an interesting night. I printed about 100 Jubilee notes and gave them away to people.

First I printed a background color with woodblock

Then I printed the linework and text with silk screen

People really liked the concept of Jubilee and debt forgiveness. Most people saw the Jubilee note as something they could use to get out of debt. Nobody that I know of spoke of using the notes the other way around, to forgive people who owed them money.

This gallery visitor offered to help me cut up the Jubilee notes. I did not pay her.

Public printing is not quite as hard as public speaking, but close.

Had a nice conversation with this young visitor and her mom.

[all photos by Lynn Koerbel]


Andrew Stone said...

Great show from the pics; nice turnout and a great opportunity to educate visitors and ourselves.
You still seem a bit conflicted and are reflecting in some ways society's conflicting views about money,work and value...the tensions that exist when we ask others to pay for works of art is fraught with so many contradictions; we create works that are both priceless and worthless at the same time so what something should "cost" becomes tricky. Imagine you had a salary as artist laureate for the community....then you could just produce art that would belong to your supporters....and pricing individual works would become irrelevant. The discomfort is present in the works--combining opposite images and text and make for very thought/conversation inspiring works. It must have been a fun evening for the visitors.
That must be worth something....

P.S. it wasn't an accident that the forgiveness year was not optional in the Old Testament...

d. moll, l.ac. said...

i missed this post, somehow, and didn't even know you used my suggestion (omg). I charge sliding scale for my acup treatments and Tai Chi class. It is an intersting concept and one which, I hope, will get people thinking in a different way.