A shiny new motto for me going into the new year: avoid getting into a discussion about time with a prospective buyer.
I’m convinced I lost at least two sales in last month’s open studios weekend as a result of potential buyer weighing price and time a little too closely. Those two exchanges, though not the norm, were both a surprise and a revelation.
The nature of my work often generates the question of how long it took, detailed tonal charcoal drawings in particular. That conversation inevitably leads a buyer to form a value judgement against the price of the work.
In most cases, they have no understanding of the costs involved: VAT and gallery commission (in some cases), framing, storage, additional time in prepping, photographing, online promotion, recording, cataloguing… this list goes on. Once you start talking about such details, they just glaze over. All they can deal with is price vs time.
Total time spent to create a work goes far beyond the physical activity for a single piece.
So how can you avoid these purchase-inhibiting exchanges?
My plan is to remain as vague as possible. After all, any piece that is part of a collection or series may take far more (or less) time than its siblings, for all manner of reasons. If pinned down, I might use phrases such as “works like this can take anywhere from 10-30 hours”. Though I am coming to the conclusion that such exchanges are unlikely to end in a sale if the buyer is focused on a time:money judgement.
Really, the amount of time a work takes to create should be wholly irrelevant.
One thought on “When time matters”
Totally agree. And the lifetime of building skills is rarely valued by anyone simply looking to fill some wall space in a hallway. Whether detailed or deceptively simplified, an artwork has had quantifiable and unquantifiable time invested in its creation. Vague is good. I’ve had to be vague for years because most of my work is abstract and often assumed quick to produce.
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