- a clear and cogent business purpose - based on facts and not assumptions
- which generates positive results i.e. more income not less
- produces better value than no minimum sale price!
READ ON: My investigations to date have produced no good reason for the use of a minimum price - and even less for raising it above the affordable art level if it is used!
The Open Art Exhibition / Competition
The basic business premise of an open art exhibition / competition is that it aims to
- attract lots of entries - and thereby generate funds via entry fees
- get lots of good calibre art entered
- select art which is good AND is priced to appeal to buyers
- which sells well - and thereby generates funds from sales
- which means more exhibitions next year!
However it cannot just be about wishful thinking.
Generating sales at an open exhibition/competition needs to be focused on:
- good calibre art - which appeals to people AND art buyers
- artists understanding how to price their art to sell (see How to Price Your Art)
- including art which people can afford to buy (see my previous two posts:
- attracting and getting visitors who want to buy - and not just look at art
- creating funds so you can do it all again next year!
Generating funds is about:
- covering the direct costs of the this year's exhibition
- making sure next year's exhibition can take place i.e. creating a reserve for expenses related to running next year's open exhibition - many of which need an outlay in advance of the exhibition opening
- contributing to the overheads of running the organisation / art gallery / competition etc
- making money for the artists
- paying taxes!
What the exact business model is varies according to every open exhibition, its organiser and their business aims and financial / budgeting expertise.
So it's worth looking at what currently happens....
Specifically in relation to the concept of "the minimum price" for art entered into an art exhibition / competition.
What is a minimum price?
Very simply, SOME open exhibitions or art competitions require that art entered must be priced at or above a minimum specified price.
However, this is NOT a rule. It is NOT required. It is an OPTION.
I've rewritten this blog post a number of times. It keeps foundering on trying to define any sort of rationale for a minimum price - of which more below.
Who uses a minimum price for art in an open art exhibition/competition?
A number of open art exhibitions stipulate a minimum price for artwork entered into open art exhibitions.
BUT NOT ALL DO. Below I've identified whether or not art competitions and open exhibitions use a minimum price
- there is an entry price
- all work must be for sale
- commission will be charged
- prices must make provision for the VAT payable if it sells
and that's it. Artists are free to price as they see fit. Which is not to say artists always price on a rational basis but they are free to set their own price.
MINIMUM PRICE is mandatory
The "minimum price" has no obvious or stated or rational reason that stands up to inspection that I can ascertain - given the very many art competitions and other open exhibitions do not need one!
It appears to be a tradition without a proper business rationale.
The basic minimum price for artwork has been £300 for some years. So this might suggest the figure is arbitrary
Over the last 12 months this has begun to vary by art society.
The Standard Minimum Price: £300 (framed prints: £180, unframed prints: £120) has been used by
However others have INCREASED the minimum
- RSMA 2023: £600 (Framed Prints £325 and unframed £200) (Exhibition metrics post coming soon)
- ROI 2023: £500
- PS 2024: £400
- RI 2024: Minimum price: £350
I've warned in all past posts about Calls for Entries where the minimum price has been raised of the potential downside. (i.e. this blog post is not coming out of the blue!)
I'm very concerned that the minimum price has been raised to £500 for a number of reasons. I can only assume this is the product of some misplaced notion that eliminating very affordable art will increase sales and income. This is wrong. If anything the emphasis should be on making artwork more affordable. Call for Entries: Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2023
Are there ANY good reasons for a "Minimum Price"?
The reason for using a minimum price for the open art exhibitions of national art societies at the Mall Galleries is UNSTATED.
- Higher minimum price means higher priced art = more income from sales
- I suspect this might be the main rationale for raising the minimum price
- I only need to point to the percentage of sales above and below certain hurdle prices to indicate why this rationale has absolutely no basis in fact. (see all my past Exhibition Metrics posts)
- The notion that it weeds out the 'rank amateurs'
- Reflects an assumption that if you pitch the minimum price high enough, those who are amateur artists, who typically exhibit in local art societies, won't submit an entry. i.e. the minimum price will deter entries from artists who do not normally charge that much. HOWEVER raising minimum price to deter entries has the potential to depress the income from entry fees!!
- I also think this assumption is WRONG. If you quote a minimum price that just sets a "benchmark" for pricing and typically amateurs who don't know a lot about pricing can (and do!) take that as their baseline - and then add a bit on.
- For example, the most popular price for sales in the recent RSMA Exhibition was £675 - after they raised the minimum price to £600. Artwork was not much different to usual - but I think sales were down (blog post coming up). See
Review: 78th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists
The new minimum price has probably LOST sales and reduced sale income. and, as I said in this post Call for Entries: Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition 2023) I think this was "a HUGE mistake"
- Saves time on selection
- The notion is that the minimum price has the potential to act as a kind of gatekeeper. It indicates that all the art in the exhibition is going to be worth at least this price.
- The last thing any selector wants to be doing is sit through endless entries of bad/poor/not good enough art submitted by people who don't really know what they're doing. Others would argue that this is par for the course re any open exhibition / art competition!!
- However, the use of digital selection means it's much easier to speed past poor artwork and focus on selecting artwork from the better entries (I speak as one who has done this more than once!)
- Indicates the calibre of art on sale
- Possibly - but not always. SELECTION is what determines the quality of art on display.
- Others would argue that the entry fee charged to the artist and the requirements around framing and getting the artwork to and from the exhibition are enough to make only those serious about art to submit any artwork at all!
- Wallspace costs money and artwork needs to earn its place on it
- If you are going to have a minimum price then I think this implicitly indicates that every artwork should be capable of sale when hung on a wall in that space. Unfortunately, that's simply not the case for various reasons - which I could elaborate on at length...... and may well do in future. It's an interesting proposition!
- The logical next step would be to review the quantity/percentage of work by members which remains unsold at the end of an exhibition.....
The Really Really Big Downside of a Minimum Price
There is ONE BIG PROBLEM with a minimum price. It can REDUCE SALES because when art costs more than available budgets of those visiting the exhibition - in person or online it WILL remain unsold.
Unless you happen to know how to attract frequent visits from high net worth individuals who buy art often!
|From my How to Sell Your Art web page on Art Business Info for Artists
(with thanks to by Paula Mould and Leigh Shenton for the quote)
Raising the minimum price of artwork for sale in an open art exhibition might be seen by some as a good way to get
- better quality art
- AND better visitors with more money
- WHO will buy more artwork
- WHICH generates more income and meets business needs
In other words, the notion goes that it will raise the calibre of the exhibition and make more sales and more money.
However, in my opinion, this argument is entirely erroneous and this one factor - the minimum price - cannot ever on its own achieve these aims
More importantly, it might in fact have the reverse effect - and REDUCE income from sales
Particularly when the typical visitor on a comfortable but not excessive income is experiencing budgetary constraints.
When economic conditions get tough, art buyers just walk away.
What should happen to the Minimum Price?
In my view,
- It has absolutely ZERO value as an instrument to generate sales.
- it has serious potential to do damage to both sales and income generated by open exhibitions if flexed unwisely - without adequate rationale and facts
- it should be REMOVED. There is in fact absolutely no need for a Minimum Price. Plenty of open art exhibitions and competitions exist without one as part of the terms and conditions.
If retained and used, ANY minimum price needs to be set very carefully
- within the context of known facts about past sales
- current data on the economic context and prospects for when the exhibition happens
- how prices and sales have varied over time as the economic context has changed
For example, we learned between 2008-2010 that big / expensive art tended not to sell well, while smaller more affordable art sold much better - and the clever artists learned how to paint smaller more affordable artworks!
The same in my opinion is happening right now. I'm seeing lots of expensive art (£2k and up) left on the walls unsold. It's clearly associated with the current context.
I'm currently quantifying the impact on sales of those who raised the minimum price - and will continue to do so....
MY RECOMMENDATION: In the current context, I'd eliminate ALL minimum prices immediately - and see what happens - to
- the number of entries and
- the number of sales
- income from sales.
As an option, it certainly can't do any worse than raising than raising the minimum price!