Is It OK to Ask a Gallery for a Discount when Purchasing Art?

When purchasing a luxury item, we all want to feel we are getting our moneys worth, and art is an intangible item to put a price on. Once an artist has their work accepted into a gallery, it is a given that their work has been acknowledged to be of value by an independent person of authority.

When valuing an artwork, an artist will consider the time taken to create it, the price their previous artworks have sold for, and the actual hard costs incurred in the making of the artwork (canvas, frame, paint, varnish, tools). The gallery will then work with the artist to set a price that reflects a reasonable and fair market value amount for said artwork. It’s worth noting here that most artists work on a slim margin and their hourly rate per painting can be very low!

Discount when Purchasing Art

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Negotiating Over Art Prices is Common in the Art World

Gallerists work with people determined to negotiate every day. Buyers may be negotiating for any number of reasons, and experienced gallerists will hear their buyers out. Often some common ground can be reached and a sale completed.

The modest discount…

While responding to a buyer asking for a small discount, there is always one thing to keep in mind: the buyer wants that art. They want that artwork to hang on their wall and they want to show it off to their friends and family. They have an idea of how much money they’d feel comfortable spending and are figuring out if a gallery is open to talking about it. They want to continue the conversation, not end it. Both artists and gallerists would rather see art on a wall than on a shelf, so maybe there is a little room to wriggle?

… versus the insultingly low offer

If a buyer is making an insultingly low offer, they are most likely playing games, or they bargain for sport. These customers are the ones who point out the negatives in an artwork, or badger the gallery to distraction. Gallerists are generally skilled at identifying this buyer and will not hesitate to politely shut them down and move on.

I Will Get a Better Deal if I Go Direct to the Artist

It is not uncommon for buyers to sight an artwork in a gallery or on a gallery website, then track down the artist and attempt to purchase the painting for a reduced amount by dealing directly with the artist. While it is true that the artist would make more money by not having to pay the gallery a commission, they will also risk becoming black-listed by their gallery.

Artists generally appreciate the work their gallery does to promote, display, store and sell their work, and will refer the buyer back to the gallery. For an artist to be represented by a gallery is an honour and few artists will risk their integrity by back-handing their gallery!

When artists and their gallerists share a good relationship, the customer attempting to go direct will almost certainly be discussed… a situation somewhat embarrassing for the buyer in the long run!

Can I Get a Feel for Which Art Might be Discounted?

If you’ve been staring at an artwork in a gallery for a year and it’s never moved then sure, there’s probably a little room to move on the purchase price. If you spy a brand new artwork that has just reached the gallery then don’t bother asking for a discount. Brand new work will receive the most exposure in the gallery, on the gallery website and on social media. It is therefore most likely to sell at full price and will not be discounted.

Can I Ask for a Discount if I Buy Multiple Artworks?

There may be a small window of negotiation if you’re buying multiple artworks, but please remember that unless they are all by the same artist (who would be thrilled to sell 4 artworks at once!) the gallery is not in a position to offer a large discount on each artwork.

Ask for a discount if you truly feel it is justified, but before you do, consider the cost to the talented artist who has created this one-off painting that you will admire every day for years to come… artists need to eat too!