Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Donate or Not to Donate

Been reading several articles about art pricing while the Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico has been debating the donating of art to nonprofit organizations. A couple of the articles I was researching addressed what your work goes for at non-profit auctions. We are all a bit depressed if our art does not sell for what we feel it would in our studios or galleries at these functions. And the non-profits are depressed about what our art brings at auction these days, and the reluctance of artists to donate and have their work devalued by what it sells for.

Your art can sell for less at a charity auction for the following reasons:

1) No non-profit is as concerned about the display of your art as a gallery or you are, so chances are your donated piece is not being shown off to its best. Charity events are about how much they can cram into a space to raise money. Too much art in the conference room makes it look trashy. And a poorly run live auction can look like an estate sale.

2) If support for the non-profit is waning it also effects how your art sells. What a patron spends is not always based on the work they can buy, but how they are feeling about the organization. If they are a bit put off by them or feel they are not doing as well as in the past what the patron buys and how much they spend will also be lessened.

3) What any artist donates to a non-profit they have supported with their best pieces in the past depends on how they feel they have been treated by them. See number 2. It becomes a real catch 22. If artists feel their work has not been displayed well, sold for too little, or warehoused if it does not sell, they will not give again or not give their best pieces.

4) Non-profit organizations can go after too many donations and ergo lessen what they get for each unique piece. Not always good to put a $500 piece of art next to a $50 discount at the local hardware store either. It is Walmarting your art. Not good for the organization or the artist. And while it is good for a charity event to have a reputation of having an opportunity for a good deal on quality art, that reputation hurts the artist and future sales for both the charity and the artist. No artist wants their work at a substandard cut rate Gallery.

5) Buyers value a piece of property or art by the neighborhood. Artists should go to the auctions that they have donated to in order to access the neighborhood as it were. If expensive pieces of art are going for under their value do not give expensive pieces. Once artists would be given tickets to the charity event so they could do this and maybe even up the prices because of the personal touch. That is not being done as often any more. Instead an artist can hear how their $500 piece went for $50. That is not going to get you increased sales. Or any sales. I once had a prospective buyer in my studio tell me they were going to wait till the next charity auction and actually point out a piece they wanted to see me donate.

6) Too many charities. Too many art auctions.  Those that have the money to buy art have to dole it out to too many worthy causes. And that means less spent at each of those charity events and also less left over to spend at galleries and studios. Some charity patrons also believe the artists that donate pieces get something in return. We do not. Bush even ruined the tax deduction. I get a bigger tax deduction if I give money or a gift certificate. And that is what more and more artists do. 

I personally have been really hard nosed about donations the last few years. I used to enjoy donating art 15 years ago but now I just feel used and abused. When asked for a donation I ask what the charity can do for me. Am I getting advertising? Do they set a minimum? If my piece does not sell am I getting it back?

I want to know how it will be displayed? Will it be in a silent auction or live auction? What is the reputation of the charity organization among other artists and the art buying public. Who else has donated? In short I take the same precautions on donations I do for placing my work in a gallery or picking an exhibition to enter.

1 comment:

  1. Lots to think about, I think you've considered all of the key points.


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