16 June 2014

It's Expensive to Be an Artist

The International Print Biennale in Newcastle, UK, opens on June 27 and I'm honored to have nine of my works being exhibited in the gallery at Northern Print.

As happy as I am to have my work included, I also have had to spend quite a bit of money to prepare and ship the work. This fact is known by artists who show their work -- it costs money to show. Yet the costs aren't visible and most people who aren't artists have no idea of the scope of these costs. In the interests of educating both art viewers and aspiring artists (who also are often unaware of the behind-the-scenes costs), may I present my reckoning of the to-date economics of having my work included in the International Print Biennale.
  • Entry fee                $42.35
  • Art Boards             261.38
  • Mounting Paper      40.12
  • Packaging               67.45
  • Postage                  131.55
  • TOTAL                  $542.85
This is to say nothing of the materials or labor involved in making the prints (the series took about 5 months) or the labor of mounting the prints on art boards (three days). As for potential sales to offset these costs, this is not something for which one should hold their breath.

Except for artists fortunate enough to land in the upper end of the market, being an artist is economically difficult if not impossible, and can occasionally feel like a foolish pursuit. I prepared my quarterly tax payment this morning, so I'm feeling foolish. But in a few minutes I'll walk over to my carving area and start working on my next Secret Codeword print, and I'll forget all about what a fool's errand I'm on.

Happy Monday!


Celia Hart said...

When people look shocked by prices of work in smart galleries, I wonder if they stop and think about all the costs involved? It's so hard to earn a living from art.

I'm so pleased to have stepped away from commissioned digital illustration work - which does pay pretty well. But I'm pleased to still get occasional commercial commissions for prints to top up the bank balance.

Good luck with the exhibition - Newcastle is a long way from Suffolk, but go to see it if I can.

Celia xx

Annie B said...

Hi Celia. It is really hard isn't it? I've been shocked at how different the fine art market is from the commercial art market. I too have kept a few commercial clients -- a big help in subsidizing my printmaking. I think of them as my Wealthy Patrons. (My spouse falls into that category as well!)

Melody Knight Leary said...

Great post Annie. You are so right; the general public has no clue about the "hidden" expenses associated with being an artist. Breaking it down the way you did, just for this one show, clearly illustrates the cost of exhibiting. (Not to mention the commission fees the galleries take.)
I hope you end up selling some pieces!

Annie B said...

Thanks, Melody. The Int'l Print Biennale web site says that they had over 153,000 visitors in 2011, so in this case the much vaunted (and usually hollow) offer of "exposure" for the work might actually be a true and valuable thing. It feels "worth it" to me, however squishy that is to evaluate.

Amherst Biennial said...

You bring a very important point to light about the costs of being an artist. We recently produced a works on paper exhibit at Deerfield Arts Bank. At my suggestion, we asked that artwork not be framed to save artists that expense. Though I have to say, dealing with unfixed pastels was really challenging.

Annie B said...

Yay for Deerfield Arts Bank! I always appreciate it when galleries do whatever they can to help artists keep costs down.

Martha Knox said...

I'm glad someone is putting this sort of perspective out there. I can't even say how many times I've been in an art gallery with students and had a kid point to a work of art and say (in an indignant tone of voice), "Why does that cost so much?" I've gotten good at just rattling off all the costs of materials, the gallery's take, the amount of time spent making the work (compared with the hourly wage of a job that actually pays.) I know I should and want to exhibit my last two series of works, but I've been putting it off because I don't have the $800 I need for framing. And that's for cheap, Ikea frames. So frustrating.

Annie B said...

I hear you, Martha. Loud and clear.