The price of anonymity

I had a very interesting and unintentional experience with trying to sell my work anonymously.

It all started with the Rendez-vous Calligraphy Conference. I wanted to enter a piece in the participant exhibit, and the only requirement was to make it an 8x8 inch square. I didn’t expect to run into any difficulties with that.

However, when I picked a quote, and wrote it out, it turned out to be longer than 8 inches, and I didn’t have that much time left. I was disappointed, but then I decided it was good to finish a project anyway.

The next morning, I realized the conference usually has an auction at the end, where people can donate their pieces, and all the proceeds go to a scholarship fund. I quite liked the piece, and decided to see if anyone else agreed, and would buy it.

I set a target of $20, and decided if it sells at that amount, I will be quite happy.

Things didn’t go according to plan, though. First, when I dropped off the piece, I forgot to write my name on the back, and my signature on the front was way too small for anyone to reasonably notice. And, of course, nobody knows what it looks like anyway :)

I had a whole day left to come back and add my name for the piece, but I decided to run a little experiment. I wondered what would happen if the piece didn’t have a name on it. Would it still sell for $20 that I hoped for?

Here is where there was a second flaw in my plan. I did not write a starting price on my piece (for some reason, I assumed it was going to be $0). When I came to the auction to see what happens, I realized the piece was priced at $50. I have to admit I was flattered, since that was way above my target.

I saw a few people stopping to look at it, considering. Some even looked on the back because they could not believe it was anonymous.

It did not sell at all. I think it was a combination of anonymity and high starting price. If I could go back, I would test whether an anonymous piece would sell for less money. Still, it’s a good thing to know that people are buying names, and not art, even if it can be a little disappointing :)