What Kind of Art Sells Best?

I think originals and reproductions sell differently to different kinds of buyers. Price points also make a difference.

Bare Branches and Red Maple Leaves Growing Alongside the Highway - photographic print by Raymond Gehman
Bare Branches and Red Maple Leaves Growing Alongside the Highway – photographic print by Raymond Gehman (Image courtesy Art.com!)
It seems while some advice is timely and best for the moment, other pearls of wisdom stand the test of time better.

Recently, I saw a link to this blog from a reply to a post I wrote on the Wet Canvas.com, Art Business Center, General Art Business forum in August 2007. It inspired me to repost it here.

I borrowed the thread's title for the subject of this post, "What Kind of Art Sells Best?" When you go there, you will find a wide variety of interesting comments and perspectives offered. In re-reading my post, I found it had both dated advice and timeless. I have interjected my current thoughts in red type to my original post republished below.

I think originals and reproductions sell differently to different kinds of buyers. Price points also make a difference. Over the years, Decor magazine has frequently surveyed its readers to ask what sells best in their retail art and picture frame shops. Not surprisingly, landscapes and florals top the list. It's the safest and most pleasing to the largest segment of the buying public and they typically go in any decor in any region of the country. How can a flower be controversial?

Art.com! publishes its Top 100, which is always informative from a trends perspective. Many poster publishers show what's hot on their websites as do other sites selling art online. If you study the ads in the trade mags or art consumer mags that most corresponds to your style and price points, you'll get a sense of what is popular.

Artists and publishers are too savvy to consistently spend thousands to promote dogs that won't hunt. So, by virtue of what they are offering, you get a view of what they perceive to be selling well, or think will sell well. Walking tradeshows like the upcoming Decor Expo Atlanta and ArtExpo Las Vegas can be very informative in this regard. (In a sign of the times, neither of these shows exist any longer, having both been canceled with little, if any, chance of resurfacing.)

I leafed through the latest Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware catalogs today. They both show more muted colors than previously. Chocolate browns and light blues, oranges, rust are still represented, but in darker, and to my eye more sophisticated palettes than previous iterations. (These colors are from 2007. If you want to see a current color forecast see my previous Art Print Issues post: 2011 Color Forecast Driven by Affordable Remodeling Trend)

You can pick up lots of color trends and content subject matter ideas from the home furnishings category if you are looking at the print reproduction and licensing markets for opportunities. If you seriously study trends, you will often find the color palette of the soft goods this season, such as sofas, lead the way for art and other decorative accessories in subsequent seasons.

If you are strictly in the originals market, you paint to impress your collectors, study your ideal collector, learn their tastes and design your work to appeal to them. You can't sell snow scenes in Scottsdale or cacti in Scarsdale. That means whether you are painting to sell to a national audience or a regional, you have to adjust what you are doing to meet the demand in the demographic and geographic areas you have targeted.

Being specialized and known for a look can help sales. It's done wonders for artists in all genres and price points to have a reputation staked out. Choose any well known contemporary artist and this is consistently borne out.

Your question (replying to the original poster) begs a question, which is, "What are you trying to achieve with your art?" Is it a few modest sales of originals, or are you looking to aggressively attack the poster or giclee market, or something altogether different? Are you seeking to be known nationally, or looking for regional exposure?

The more refined you are with regard to your intentions for your art sales, the easier it is to decide what sells best in the areas of importance to you. I think if you know what you want to do with your art, you can hone in on what you need to learn to make it happen. When you have that dialed in, you can put your blinders on and focus on getting there without the distractions of trying to comprehend and compete with the entire art market.

When it comes to your art career future, there is a great choice you can help to steer it in the right direction. That is by participating in the 5th Annual smARTist Telesummit. I will be returning again with an all new presentation for you to discuss how to succeed in the print market. The other presenters each bring their own expertise and wisdom to share with you.

Sign up now to get in on the Interest List. Only those on the list will have an opportunity to take advantage of the early bird special discount. It's a short window of only six days to sign up and save. But, you need to know about it first. Take a moment to get your name on the Interest List now, you won't regret it.

Another valuable art career tool is the 2nd Edition of How to Profit from the Art Print Market. You can order it now for delivery before the holidays. Click here to order and save on your copy.

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