Public Art Pricing: A Guide for Sculptors
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. What is public art?
  2. How to determine the price of a sculpture
  3. Factors that influence the price of a sculpture
  4. How to negotiate the price of a public art commission
  5. How to budget for materials and labor
  6. How to consider the value of your artistic time
  7. How to account for maintenance and conservation costs
  8. How to include transportation and installation costs
  9. How to factor in the value of exposure and prestige
  10. How to protect yourself and your art: legal and insurance considerations

Ever tried to put a price tag on your sculpture for a public art commission and felt lost? We've all been there. Public art pricing can seem like a maze, but with the right guide, it doesn't have to be. We're here to help you understand how to price a sculpture for public art commission. Let's start with the basics.

What is public art?

Public art is like the cherry on top of a city's sundae—it adds color, vibrancy, and character. These are the sculptures in the park, the murals on the buildings, and the installations in the plaza. They're the pieces that make you stop, stare, and snap a picture. They're a part of the city's identity and create a sense of place.

But public art isn't just about aesthetics. It's also about sparking dialogue, telling stories, and creating communal experiences. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Public art is accessible: Unlike art in a museum or a private collection, public art is out in the open for everyone to enjoy. Whether it's a busy downtown area or a quiet neighborhood park, public art is accessible to all, regardless of age, culture, or socioeconomic status.
  • Public art is diverse: From bronze sculptures to digital installations, public art can take on many forms. It reflects the diversity of the community it's in, and can even be a means to celebrate that diversity.
  • Public art is impactful: Public art can provoke thought, inspire change, and even challenge societal norms. It's not just decoration—it's a powerful tool for communication and expression.

So, now that you have a better understanding of what public art is, let's dive into how to price your sculpture for a public art commission. It's not just about covering your costs—it's also about valuing your time, your creativity, and your contribution to the community.

How to determine the price of a sculpture

Now that we've established what public art is, let's get down to the nitty-gritty—how to determine the price of your sculpture for a public art commission.

Figuring out how to price your work isn't an exact science, but there are some steps you can follow to make the process less daunting. Here's how:

  1. Calculate your costs: Start by adding up all the expenses related to creating your sculpture. This includes materials, tools, studio rent, and even your utility bills. Remember to factor in the cost of transportation and installation as well.
  2. Estimate your labor: Next, consider the time you spend on creating your sculpture. This isn't just about the hours you spend physically sculpting, but also the time spent on research, conceptualizing, sketching, and more.
  3. Assess the market: Look at what similar artworks are selling for. This can give you a ballpark figure of what patrons are willing to pay. However, don't let this be the only deciding factor. Your art—and your time—are worth more than just a comparison.
  4. Value your creativity: Your creativity and talent are part of the equation too. It's what sets your sculpture apart from the rest. So, don't shy away from putting a price on it.

While these steps provide a framework, remember that pricing artwork isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Every piece, every artist, and every commission is unique. It's okay to adjust and adapt as you go along. Just remember, your work has value, and it's okay to ask for what you believe it's worth.

Factors that influence the price of a sculpture

So, you've got a basic understanding of how to price your sculpture, but the question remains: what factors influence this price? Let's break them down:

  1. Materials Used: Are you using marble, bronze, or wood? The type and quality of materials used can greatly affect the price. More expensive materials usually mean a higher price tag for your sculpture.
  2. Size of the Sculpture: Larger sculptures require more materials, more time, and more effort. This all contributes to a higher cost. But remember, size isn't everything—small but intricate pieces can also command high prices.
  3. Complexity: A simple, abstract form might not take as long to create as a highly detailed human figure. The complexity of your sculpture—how many parts it has, how detailed it is—can affect how much you charge.
  4. Reputation: If you're well-known in the art world, your pieces might fetch higher prices. But don't get disheartened if you're relatively unknown—everyone starts somewhere!
  5. Market Trends: Like in any industry, trends in the art world can influence prices. Keeping an eye on these trends can help you understand what buyers might be willing to pay.

Remember, these factors aren't set in stone, and the 'right' price for your sculpture is ultimately what you—and your buyers—feel it's worth. It's a delicate balance, but with some practice and a lot of self-belief, you can master the art of pricing your work.

How to negotiate the price of a public art commission

Okay, so you've determined your price, you've considered all the factors, and now you're ready to make a deal. But how do you go about negotiating the price of a public art commission? Let's check out some tips:

  1. Research is Key: Before you negotiate, research the average price of similar public art commissions. This gives you a ballpark figure to work with and can prevent you from asking too low or too high.
  2. Be Confident: Remember, this isn't just about selling a sculpture—it's about selling your talent, time, and creativity. Don't undersell yourself! Be confident in your pricing.
  3. Justify Your Price: Be ready to explain why your sculpture is priced the way it is. If you can justify your price with clear reasons—like the high-quality materials you've used or the hours of work invested—it helps your buyer understand what they're paying for.
  4. Be Open to Compromise: Negotiations involve give and take. Be open to a little flexibility in your pricing, but also know when to hold firm. It's a delicate dance, but remember—you're not just making a sale, you're building a relationship.
  5. Get it in Writing: Once you've agreed on a price, make sure to get it in writing. This protects both you and the buyer and ensures there are no misunderstandings down the line.

And there you have it! Remember, negotiating can be tough, but it's all part of the process. So, take a deep breath and dive in—you've got this!

How to budget for materials and labor

When it comes to creating a sculpture for a public art commission, the cost of materials and labor is a significant part of your budget. But how do you go about budgeting for these costs? Here are some pointers:

  1. Estimate Material Costs: What materials will you use in your sculpture? Marble, bronze, steel, or perhaps recycled materials? The choice of material not only influences the look and feel of your sculpture but also the cost. Make a list of all the materials you'll need and estimate their costs. Don't forget to include the cost of any tools or equipment you may need to rent or buy.
  2. Calculate Labor Costs: How many hours will it take to create your sculpture? Don't just count the time you'll spend physically sculpting. Remember to include time spent on research, designing, meeting with clients, and even cleaning up your workspace. Then, multiply the total hours by a reasonable hourly wage. This is your labor cost.
  3. Plan for Unexpected Costs: As with any creative project, unexpected costs can crop up. You might find you need more of a particular material, or a tool might break and need replacing. Set aside a portion of your budget to cover these unexpected costs.
  4. Review and Adjust: Once you've estimated your material and labor costs, add them up to get your total cost. Does it seem reasonable for the scope of the project? If not, you may need to adjust your plans or negotiate a higher price with your client.

Remember, a well-planned budget is key to a successful public art commission. It helps ensure you're fairly compensated for your work and prevents any unpleasant surprises. So, take the time to get it right—you'll thank yourself later!

How to consider the value of your artistic time

Time is a valuable asset, and as a sculptor, you need to recognize the worth of your artistic time while pricing a sculpture for public art commission. But how do you quantify something as abstract as time spent on art? Here are some tips:

  1. Assess Your Skill Level: If you're a seasoned sculptor with a strong portfolio and plenty of commissions under your belt, your time is more valuable than a beginner's. This doesn't mean beginners shouldn't value their time—it just means that as you gain experience and improve your skills, the value of your artistic time increases.
  2. Consider The Complexity Of The Project: Not all art projects are created equal. A large, intricate public sculpture will require more of your time than a small, simple one. When pricing your sculpture, factor in the complexity of the project and its impact on your time.
  3. Don't Undersell Yourself: It's easy for artists to undervalue their work, but remember that your time, talent, and creativity are worth paying for. Don't be afraid to price your sculpture in a way that respects the value of your artistic time.
  4. Remember To Include Non-Physical Work Time: Your artistic time includes more than just the hours you spend sculpting. It also includes the time you spend brainstorming, sketching, meeting with clients, and doing back-office tasks like invoicing and marketing. Make sure to factor these hours into your pricing as well.

Valuing your artistic time appropriately is crucial for a sustainable and rewarding career in sculpture. So next time you're wondering how to price a sculpture for a public art commission, remember to give your time the value it deserves!

How to account for maintenance and conservation costs

Public art, by its very nature, is exposed to the elements. This means your sculptures will need to be maintained and conserved over time to keep them looking their best. So, when pricing a sculpture for public art commission, it's important to consider these costs. Here's how you can do that:

  1. Research Material Lifespan: Different materials have different lifespans. Some sculptures may weather beautifully, while others may require frequent cleaning or even restoration. Understanding the lifespan and maintenance needs of your chosen materials will help you estimate future conservation costs.
  2. Consider the Location: A sculpture placed in a bustling city square may require more maintenance than one in a quiet park. Think about where your sculpture will be located and what kind of wear and tear it might endure. This can help you budget for maintenance and conservation costs.
  3. Factor in Regular Maintenance: Regular maintenance is key in preserving the beauty of your sculpture. This could include cleaning, minor repairs, or even applying protective coatings. When pricing your sculpture, make sure to account for these recurring costs.
  4. Plan for Major Conservation Work: Over time, your sculpture may require more significant conservation efforts, such as restoration or major repairs. It's a good idea to include a buffer in your pricing to account for these potential costs.

Remember, maintenance and conservation are a part of the life of a public sculpture. So when you're deciding how to price a sculpture for public art commission, don't forget to factor these costs in. Your future self—and your artwork—will thank you!

How to include transportation and installation costs

Once you've cast that final piece of your sculpture and given it the perfect finish, it's time to get it to its destination. But, moving a sculpture is no small task! And installing it? That's a whole other ball game. So, when deciding how to price a sculpture for public art commission, transportation and installation costs are absolutely vital. Here's a look at how you can include these costs:

  1. Estimate Transportation Costs: Sculptures, especially large ones, can be expensive to transport. You'll need to consider the size and weight of your sculpture, the distance it needs to travel, and whether any special equipment is needed. It's wise to get quotes from several companies to ensure you're budgeting appropriately.
  2. Plan for Installation: Getting your sculpture from the studio to the site is one thing, but getting it installed is another. Depending on the complexity of your sculpture, you might need cranes, scaffolding, or other equipment. You might even need permits. Make sure you get a clear understanding of what's needed for installation and factor those costs into your price.
  3. Consider Unexpected Costs: Sometimes, despite our best plans, unexpected costs pop up. Maybe the installation takes longer than expected, or the transportation company charges extra for a particularly difficult maneuver. When pricing your sculpture, it's a good idea to add a little extra to cover these unexpected costs.
  4. Don't Forget About Safety: Safety is paramount when moving and installing sculptures. This might mean paying for additional equipment or qualified personnel to ensure everything goes smoothly. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry, so don't skimp on safety when budgeting for transportation and installation.

So, the next time someone asks you how to price a sculpture for public art commission, don't forget to mention transportation and installation costs. They're a big part of the equation and should not be overlooked!

How to factor in the value of exposure and prestige

Next up in our guide on how to price a sculpture for public art commission, let's talk about the less tangible, but equally important aspects: exposure and prestige.

  1. Consider the Visibility: Public art is just that—public. Thousands, even millions of people might pass by your sculpture daily. That's a lot of eyes on your work! High visibility can lead to greater recognition, future commissions, and even higher sales prices in the future. So, when you're pricing your work, remember to factor in the value of that exposure.
  2. Prestige of the Project: Not all public art commissions are created equal. A small, local project might not carry the same prestige as a prominent city landmark or a commission from a well-known organization. Higher prestige can boost your reputation and open doors to more prestigious projects in the future. So, don't be afraid to price your work higher if the project is prestigious.
  3. Connections and Networking: Public art projects often involve a lot of people – city officials, art consultants, architects, and more. These connections can be invaluable for future projects. So, when pricing your work, consider the value of the networking opportunities the project might provide.
  4. Portfolio Enhancement: Every public art commission you complete adds to your portfolio. A well-rounded portfolio can demonstrate your versatility and increase your appeal to prospective clients. It's another factor to consider in your pricing.

Remember, pricing isn't just about covering your costs and making a profit. It's also about recognizing the value of exposure and prestige. After all, these can pay dividends in the long run!

Now, let's shift gears a bit and talk about an aspect of pricing your public art commission that you might not have thought about—legal and insurance considerations.

  1. Understand the Contract: In the world of public art commissions, the contract is king. It stipulates everything from payment terms to maintenance responsibilities. Make sure you fully understand the terms before you sign. If you're unsure, consider seeking advice from a legal professional who specializes in art law.
  2. Insure Your Art: Accidents happen. Your sculpture might get damaged during transportation, installation, or even after it's installed. To protect your investment, consider purchasing art insurance. It could save you a lot of stress and financial hardship in the long run.
  3. Account for Liability: As a public artist, you could be held liable if someone gets injured by your artwork. To protect yourself, you might need to include the cost of liability insurance in your pricing. Better safe than sorry, right?
  4. Protect Your Copyright: Your sculpture is not just a physical object—it's also an intellectual property. Make sure you understand the copyright provisions in the contract. If necessary, negotiate to retain the rights you want, such as reproduction rights for prints or merchandise.

As you can see, pricing a sculpture for public art commission is not all about the art—it's also about protecting yourself and your work. So, as you calculate your price, remember to factor in these legal and insurance considerations.

If you're a sculptor looking for guidance on public art pricing, we highly recommend checking out Olivia Ghalioungui's workshop, 'How to Price Yourself as a Creative.' This workshop will provide valuable insights on pricing strategies and help you establish a reliable pricing structure for your public art projects.