HOW A SCULPTURE IS MADE: The price of contemporary work is set by the artist and depends on many factors. How a sculpture is produced is an important consideration in its price. Whether the artist crafts the work in person or has it fabricated or cast by a professional facility- or is able, as a student or instructor, to use the schooläs facilities- all help determine the cost of the work. The techniques chosen in the fabrication and the finish (especially for outdoor works) determine the time spent. The type, quantity and specific grade of the material used all have an effect on cost. But the actual time involved in creating the piece and the materials used are only two factors.
ARTIST CAREER: The artist's skill and career are major factors in appraising a work of art. An artist who is beginning to exhibit (emerging) is typically accepted in art centers, universities and small, local galleries only, regardless of the quality of the work. The next step (mid-career) is to show with established galleries in metropolitan areas and local museums and enter competitions to obtain commissions and awards. These steps are very time-consuming and costly, especially for a sculptor who needs to consider the cost of crating and shipping the work over vast distances. When the artist is juried into shows at larger commercial galleries and museums and is the subject of art reviews or is published in catalogues, the demand generally increases as the work gets exposure to a larger public. It takes a lot of work (and connections in the Art world), besides the conceiving and making of art, for an artist to reach the point of a major retrospective at a New York museum!
SUPPLY AND DEMAND: The availability of the work in relationship to the demand influences the price as well. The last piece in a small limited edition bronze, for instance, is usually priced 10 to 20% higher than the others in the same edition. Henry Moore drove up the price of his sculpture by allowing only a fraction of his works to sell each year. Collectors wishing to acquire a piece had to get on a waiting list!
THE WORK'S IMPORTANCE: The importance of the specific sculpture within the sculptor's body of work is also taken into consideration in pricing a sculpture. This work may have won a prestigious award or have been included in a major museum exhibit. You may be looking at a sculpture that culminates years of work in a series. The artist may have just completed this breakthrough piece combining elements of earlier works, brought together for the first time; those earlier works may not have sold, yet they had to be created for the seminal masterpiece to emerge.