Why does art cost so much money?

Have you ever looked at a beautiful piece of art, and then gasped at the price tag?

Why does art cost so much?

I’m not talking about the .001 percent of artists who are household names and sell art for millions.  I’m talking about the rest of us.

I’m talking about why my painting here is selling for $1100 USD/800 EUR.  That’s a lot, right?

Purple, Silver, Copper, inspired by the Pantone color of 2014, Radiant Orchid

Purple, Silver, Copper, acrylic on canvas, 70 x 100 cm, by M.K. Hajdin

(By the way, you can find it at Xanadu Gallery if you’re interested in buying it.)

Let’s have a look at my income and expenses.  First, the expenses.

Here’s a breakdown of what it cost to make “Purple, Silver, Copper.”  Let’s use Euros, because I bought my materials in a country that uses the euro.



Canvas – 40 EUR


Molding Paste 15 EUR
White 15 EUR
Dioxazine Purple 7 EUR
Silver 7 EUR
Copper 7 EUR.
Assorted other colors 5 EUR.
Brush 10 EUR
Palette Knives: 2 for 5 EUR each – 10 EUR

In materials alone it cost 109 EUR.
One week of studio time: studio rent 100 EUR/wk


After the gallery takes its 30% cut, I am left with 560 EUR. Deducting all of the above expenses and dividing the rest by the 50 hours of work it took to create it, I make an average of 7 EUR or 9.62 USD per hour, which is slightly above minimum wage for the United States.  I didn’t even figure in tax.

The overwhelming majority of artists are not rich.  We don’t sell for millions.  We’re lucky if we make minimum wage.  I love what I do and I wouldn’t do anything else, but for most of us, making art is a terrible way to make money.

So the next time you look at a price tag, you’ll know why the price is that high.

Related post:  Want to buy some cheap abstract art? 

Got something to say about art prices?  Leave me a comment in the box below.



4 thoughts on “Why does art cost so much money?

  1. Bek Clarke

    Ah the life of an artist. Whether it be a painter, writer etc….we create because we have to. It is such a burning desire that the prospect of a lifetime on minimum wages would never defeat a true artist. To live a life doing what you are passionate about is a blessing, as passion is worth more than gold. Most art is sold for much less than it is worth. Time is money! Lucian Freud would at times work on a painting for 1 year. The Hobbit took 10 years to write! Thank you for your post….I enjoyed the read x

  2. Thomas John Taylor

    Aloha, Money seems to be a deterrent to a Life as an Artist. I am a Lifetime Artist that has a very Cultured Lifestyle with a non-existent Budget. I have just been invited to NYC Agora Gallery, Manhattan to be part of the Family as an Oil-Painter/Photographer in hopes of a “1 MAN SHOW”. i need to have money to send a few hundred oil/canvas images there, plus my own budget for New York City. (I’ll take a Guitar and play for tips like when I was a kid.) Somehow it all works out if you Believe! It’s the Lifestyle that rewards you in so many ways as it decorates empty space with that permanent language of your expression in Art. The Most Interesting People in the World.

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