Collector’s Corner: Random Thoughts on Pricing of Fine Art Photographs

In Art Fair, Black and White Photography, Photo Print Collector on March 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Artist: Harry Callahan, Title: Study (weed) - click on image to enlarge

Harry Callahan “Study (Weed)” – Stephen Daiter Gallery

The just ended AIPAD show at the Armory in New York presented the attendees with a plethora of images. Attendant to those photographic prints were pricing schemes of every range and price point. What is striking about the prices offered were the similarities and obvious disparities.

Many works fell in the $2,000 – $5,000  “bucket”, with $15,000 to $25, 000 being the next largest general price category we observed. Additional prices were to be found at $10,000 on up to $100,000 in somewhat random occurrence.

The marketplace for fine art photographs should be large enough to impose pressure on pricing within various parameters of price history in the secondary market, rarity, condition, subject, medium, size, artist living or dead, editioning, quality and provenance.

At least one disparity we noticed was the tendency of non- New York galleries to have a higher price bias. Our unscientific sampling seemed to detect similar artists’ works being priced as more of a luxury than as a competitive offering in an efficient market. And maybe that is is the point.

The vaguely cited market size “guesstimate” of only 5 to 10,000 collectors, may indicate an inefficient market where pricing is inherently “irrational”.

In which case the advice should be, research your purchase with multiple dealers if possible, use the online reference sources for auction results, don’t be afraid to negotiate in a firm but respectful manner and above all balance your need vs. want in avoiding an emotional decision. The “bottom line” though is not what you pay but the overall value you receive in owning a piece of beautiful art.

Collector resources:


DLK Collection

Photography Collection

AIPAD On Collecting Photographs

Photograph Magazine

The Photograph Collector 

The Art of Collecting Photography
Laura Noble

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