Know Your Market Worth: Fine Artist Salary Advice, Pt. I 1
Art Business

Know Your Market Worth: Fine Artist Salary Advice, Pt. I

So you’ve gained acclaim as a trained, knowledgeable fine artist, and you’ve had the chance to exhibit your work to the public and earn your living with a decent fine artist salary. Making a living as a fine artist and making artwork, however, are two vastly different aspects of being in the art world. There are specific questions that someone working as a fine artist must address when accurately assessing how they make their livelihood. Chief among these questions is the matter of income: do you know the “right” fine artist salary for you? How can you know whether you’re making the right income for your artistic talents in a field very much not one-size-fits-all? We take a look at key indicators of artistic success for artists in order to better identify how art market worth and overall fine artist salary can be impacted by growth in one’s artistic practice.

Fine Artist Salary: We Don’t Need No Education

Know Your Market Worth: Fine Artist Salary Advice, Pt. I 2
Acquiring new skills through art education boosts sales

Wondering where to begin when evaluating your perceived market value? Depending on your background, one factor which can speak volumes about your ability to rise to the top of the art market is whether or not you’ve achieved a fine art education. However, depending on your specific field, this can surprisingly not factor in, or have a minor impact on sales figures and overall fine artist salary. While a BFA in Fine Arts and/or a related field can be enough to break the barrier for any fine artist to make sales or find gallery representation, an MFA can often be the deciding factor for a fine artist seeking serious sales and art world attention. Some artists, however, don’t need a formal education at all if their field prioritizes other factors over an artist’s degree and credentials when considering their perceived value (and, thus, their fine artist salary). Our advice? Know your field: if you work as an urban artist or muralist, potential collectors will be taking stock of your popularity and pop culture caché more than they’ll examine your degree. However, as a sculptor, painter or even new media artist, you’ll likely be judged on your institutional pedigree and a degree from Yale or RISD will be favorably considered by collectors and dealers. Artists who have influential professors and classmates who patronize and publicize their work, serving as their advocates to others in the art world, will also net a stronger sales record and a higher fine artist salary.

Network for Net Worth

In addition to finding advocates among one’s peers and mentors, fine artist salary ranges can rely heavily on who is interested in one’s practice. Are influential collectors clamoring to invest in an emerging artist’s work? Are dealers competing to pull someone onto their artist roster? If this isn’t the scenario for you, what can you do to make it there? The best bet for increasing a fine artist salary is to build an impressive and ever-increasing list of collectors who regularly attend one’s art openings, seeking out new artworks to add to their collection. There are a few simple tried-and-true methods to gain more interest from the greater art world. Two major methods for gaining recognition, and thus expanding one’s network of collectors, include being written up in art world press outlets and publications and winning recognition and awards from prestigious granting organizations. Artists who are covered by the New York Times and who win a Hugo Boss Prize from the Guggenheim organization understandably have a higher fine artist salary than artists who have very little press coverage and no awards. Start researching those artists who have won the very same awards you would like to earn yourself. Dig up influences on these artists, and see who visited their studios. By identifying major art world trends and recognizing key figures in the immediate and wider art world, an artist can be better prepared to enter this existing network and be granted wider access to collectors and respect from art dealers.

Get Out There: Art Fairs’ Impact on Fine Artist Salary

fine artist salary
Art fairs can be key to a high annual salary

Much attention has been given to the old adage location, location, location. Nowhere is location more noticed by other figures in the art world than when art fair season comes around. From Miami to Milan, London to Los Angeles, artists exhibiting at taste-making venues will be looked upon favorably while artists whose work is sold at lesser-known, less attended fairs are more likely to be overlooked. Artists who only have a small number of works sold at fairs, or who have a minor number of works exhibited there, have less capability of sustaining a high fine artist salary. In spite of recent mixed coverage paid to art fair by art world critics such as Jerry Saltz – and your very own Art Business Journal! – art fairs still portend an opportunity for art dealers and artists to gain an entire year’s salary in just a few simple sales to collectors. A fine artist salary can jump significantly based on being recognized at art fairs, and selling out one’s work at a fair is a sure indicator for approaching art market success. Through cultivating a healthy mix of collectors who visit art fairs along with admirers of one’s practice on the local and regional level, artists can rest assured that their potential to net a successful sales target and gain a respectable fine artist salary are secure.

While fine artist salary benchmarks seem straightforward, these steps can take time to build, develop and master. Artists can also be tricked into believing that they don’t need to make “more”: that whatever sales targets they’ve already met are enough and to give up seeking a higher base salary or less net pay. Don’t give up! Examine these indicators and take a healthy look at your impact and potential placement in the art world firmament. Everyone started somewhere, and there’s no reason to settle for less when it comes to a fine artist salary for a talented, dedicated artist.

Know some tips and tricks we left out for giving one’s art a better sales volume for higher prices? Have experience with building a solid track record for increasing one’s fine artist salary over time? Share your tips in the comments below!


About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor based in Sunnyside, Queens, where her Chi-Spaniel puppy graciously allows her to cohabit.

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