by Written by WAA Members on 05/03/16


Blog by Mary K. Donahoe

Marilyn Pound gave a very informative discussion of Impressionism on April 26 at Ocean Ridge Plantation (soon to be repeated on May 11 at WAA’s Business Meeting, if you missed it.) She fielded questions with good grace. But there was one which always comes up ... is in the back of everyone’s mind... when art is discussed. It was, “How do you determine the price for a piece of art?”

I felt empathy for Marilyn. When I gave a discussion of architecture to my son’s third grade class, there was one kid who only wanted to know how much the buildings cost. There’s one in every crowd.

Money you give to acquire a piece of art is a marker of respect for the artist, their imagination and skill, and their ability to produce a work of art that fits into your living room’s color scheme. Or, if you’re the artist and you’re dead, it’s an investment in a (clearly) limited commodity.

Art pieces and dogs have a lot in common. I can still hear the horror in my son’s voice when he discovered the cold facts: “You mean you can buy dogs? Like dogs, pieces of art have a life of their own, they are loved by their creator, and the concept of offering them on the marketplace block hurts. Especially when they don’t sell.

In an effort to look at this on a less emotional level, I did a market survey of oil paintings at the Wilmington Art Association’s Spring Art Show and Sale, based on their printed booklet. Costs ranged from a low of $.92 per square inch to a high of $12.98 psi. Throwing out high and low, the average was around $2.35 psi. Award winners did not differ. Now the Commerce Department will be on me for price fixing.

I can’t give any insight into the mind of an art buyer. I’m not one, for the most part (although I should be, given all the impressive original art produced around here.) I already have enough of my own. I know few buyers. The ones I do know bought art because they had an emotional attachment to the piece. It seemed to speak to them.

So we can only continue to speak in that original language we use in our art, and hope that someone shares it. We do our honest best, and put our hearts into it. That’s worth more than gold.