Compiled by Cate Terblanche, Art Curator, Sasol Art Collection

The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition is a very valuable platform for emerging artists, whether you are part of the winning circle or not.  The exhibition provides artists with an incredible opportunity to showcase their works to galleries and art lovers, but also includes the potential of selling your artwork, as all artworks which are entered must be available for sale.  This blog will provide you with some insights into pricing your artwork to ensure the best chance of selling your artwork at a market appropriate price.   


Myths around artists who go through life without selling a painting versus superstar artists making millions by exhibiting sharks in formaldehyde abound, and if you choose to follow a career in the arts you will either be told ‘you can’t make a living out of art’ or ‘you can get rich quickly by charging incredible prices for your work’.   The truth, however, lies somewhere in the middle, I think.   The Arts and Culture sector is one of biggest contributors to our country’s GDP (gross domestic product) estimated at around R63-billion per year in 2019 (Heather Dugmore, The art sector is economic gold, Mail & Guardian online, 15 Nov 2019).  Obviously, this was pre-Covid, but the fact remains that the Arts and Culture sector is a viable and lucrative option when it comes to careers.  The visual arts sector specifically also provides a vast array of avenues for creatives to follow besides becoming professional visual artists, and these include graphic and visual design, formal and informal education, as well as marketing and advertising to name a few.   

But if you wish to follow the path of becoming a professional artist, the first hurdle to overcome is finding a market for your work, assuming that you have your artistic skills mastered.   Entering a competition such as the Sasol New Signatures Art competition is one way to expose your work to a wider audience.  Many gallery owners visit the exhibition with that specific goal in mind, which is to connect with young, fresh talent.   So even if you are not part of the winning circle, you may still be on the receiving end of some great opportunities.   Do remember though, if you do end up with a gallery representation, you will no longer be eligible for entering the Sasol New Signatures competition.



Another great prospect of the Sasol New Signatures Art competition is the possibility of selling your artwork.   Unfortunately, every year we see so many artworks go unsold due to incorrect pricing.  If your artwork is overpriced, not only will you probably loose the sale, but you are also placing your reputation at risk and affecting future sales. If you start off your career with a reputation of over-pricing works, it will be very difficult to rectify that.  So, here are a few tips on how to price your artworks.


  • Remember that the competition is for emerging artists, and your prices should reflect that level.  You cannot charge prices associated with world famous artists who have spent decades perfecting their skills.   If your work is over-priced, it will not sell, simple.
  • Do some research with regards to selling prices of similar works being sold at local galleries, and get a feel for general asking prices, but keep in mind the profile of the artists you are comparing your work to.
  • You should be mindful of the costs associated with producing the work.  Ensure that your price covers at least all the materials that you have used in the production of the work, including the framing.  You also do not want to produce your work at a loss.
  • Work out a standard price for specific sizes and media, for instance a specific price for all drawings of a specific size, a different price for paintings of a specific size etc.   Keeping your prices in a similar range for similar sizes makes it easier for clients to evaluate their purchases, but also provides you with a workable pricing framework.  There are a variety of artwork pricing formulas available on the internet which will assist with calculating the appropriate price for specific works.
  • Some artists use a price based on an hourly wage plus cost of materials, while others use a comprehensive cost unit per square centimeter or meter.  Either way, do ensure that you calculate a price which is reasonable, and which covers the costs of the materials used.
  • Once you have established your prices, be consistent.   Avoid the temptation of increasing your prices on a whim.



The Association of the Arts Pretoria assists with the sales from the exhibition, and if you are unsure, feel free to ask them for guidance with regards to selling prices.   The selling price entered for the artwork on the entry form must include the commission payable to the gallery.

Start by working out the artist’s price (your price). To do this, calculate the costs of the materials, plus an hourly rate for the time spent on creating the work.   Do ensure that this price is a reasonable one, and not overpriced in relation to current market prices for similar works.

To calculate the selling price of a work the artist can use the following formula:

Artist price plus 50% = the selling price
For example:  R1 500,00 plus R750 (50%) equals R2 250,00



As an emerging artist, the process of selling through galleries could be rather daunting, and fraught with dangers if you are unprepared.  I’d like to offer two pieces of advice should the opportunity arise for you to exhibit with a gallery.

  • Always, always, always insist on a written, signed contract which clearly indicates the commission payable to the gallery, a cost breakdown and details of costs you will be responsible for, when your sales will be paid over, and the period the work will be under contract for after the exhibition.   Many issues can be avoided if a contract is in place beforehand.  It is your responsibility as an artist to ensure that you are legally covered before handing over your work.  Most galleries have a standard contract which would apply to all the artists they deal with.  If you are not in agreement with the contract, feel free to negotiate with the gallery, but ensure that all amendments are noted and signed for by both parties.  At no point should you settle for a verbal agreement only.
  • Do not make private arrangements with buyers to sell works at a reduced price after the exhibition has ended to avoid them having to pay gallery commissions. Not only is this behavior unethical and unlawful if it contravenes your contract with the gallery, but you will also damage your reputation and future opportunities within the wider artworld.    Galleries invest in you as an artist, and your work. These costs can be quite considerable and are covered by the commissions charged on sales, which they are legally entitled to.



The Sasol New Signatures competition gives you the opportunity to showcase your works to potential buyers.  To capitalize on the opportunity, ensure that your work is reasonably and appropriately priced, in line with prices charged by other emerging artists.



Do check out the other blogs in this series which focus on the main reasons why works are eliminated in the regional rounds, how to formulate the artist’s statement and much more.  Make sure not to miss this! 

For more information on how to enter this year’s Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, visit our website and follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.