What Kind of Art Sells Best?

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932 by Picasso, Courtesy PabloPicasso.org

Is It Important to Know What Kind of Art Sells Best?

The Question Vexes Many Artists.

In some ways, it’s impossible to give an accurate answer to what kind of art sells best. It’s too broad. Are we talking original paintings, sculpture, mixed media, digital art or reproductions?

Picasso’s painting above holds the record for the most expensive painting sold at $106 million.  That’s one way of looking at what kind of art sells best. No doubt it offers little insight into helping you decide on the type of art you make.

Florals and Landscapes Dominate?

Many of you know I worked nearly two decades for Decor magazine during its heyday as the most successful publication serving retail art galleries and picture frame shops. Over the years, Decor magazine frequently surveyed its readers to ask what sold best in their shops. Not surprisingly, landscapes and florals perennially topped the list. They go in any decor and are as non-controversial as you can get.

Somehow, florals didn’t make the cut on this HubPages article, Top Ten subjects for art that sells. Otherwise, I agree with the suggestions it offers. The question for you is, “What do you do with this information?” I can see how knowing this and researching the resources below can help you. However, I think they should only slightly modify and not completely affect your creative process.

How to Find What’s Trendy in Art Sales.

Art.com publishes its bestsellers. Due to its volume of annual sales, it is informative to learn what’s hot there. Many poster publishers show what’s hot on their websites as do other sites selling art online. FineArtAmerica.com also publishes a bestsellers page. Study the ads in trade magazines such as Art Business News and Art World News to see what top art publishers are advertising.  Art print wholesaler, Liebermans.net, publishes a bestseller list, as well.

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Consumer Sites Are Worth a Look.

Try leafing through the latest Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware catalogs for ideas. Those are just two of dozens of online sites that sell home decor, including original art and reproductions.  ArtfulHome.com is a juried site worth checking out. You can look at Pantone.com or BenjaminMoore.com to find the latest color trends.

Making Art People Want to Buy.

Success in selling art starts with creating work that interests buyers. Without that, nothing else matters. You also need a plan to find buyers and a system to remind them on a steady basis that you have artwork they should own. That is the art business in its most simplistic terms.

Being informed about trends is a good thing when it comes to boosting sales. If you are making art for the ages, you probably don’t care trends. Moreover, you probably aren’t reading blog posts about art marketing either.

Since you are reading this, we’ll go with you want to make art that is easy to sell. There is nothing wrong with that as a motivating purpose for you. Making art as a business is as time-honored as any tradition in the history of art.

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If that’s you, that you want your art to sell well then it makes sense you would want to know what other kinds of art sells best. It doesn’t have to be completely monetary driven. You can want to know what other artists are doing because it stimulates your creativity in new ways.

Creativity Is Borrowed.

My observation is the most successful artists use a mix of their creativity with a dash of inspiration from what’s going on around them. Art has always been made this way. I’m sure cave dwellers borrowed ideas from each other.

Artists seek stimulus from fellow artists and the world around them. If they didn’t, we would have never had movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Art Deco and so forth.

Taking Influence Stretches Beyond Visual Arts.

Bob Dylan spawned enormous influence over popular music in his day. He, in turn, found the music of artists as varied as Little Richard, Woody Guthrie, and Robert Johnson. The music of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys spurred The Beatles to pay attention and respond. When it comes to art and creativity, nothing is made in a vacuum.

Find Your Balance.

It’s more than okay to let the work of others influence and inspire your creativity. It’s probably the only way you improve to the best of your ability. Likewise, it’s perfectly okay to take note of what kind of art is selling all around you now. At the same time, you don’t want your art to be slavish to trends. That sometimes works in the short run, it is a career killer in the long run.

Untitled, Pablo Picasso, 1963 courtesy of cirrusimage.com

Untitled, Pablo Picasso, 1963 courtesy of cirrusimage.com

You’re looking for a fine balance between completely original ideas and those formed from outside influences. Picasso’s interests in African masks still ripples through the art world a century later. Without that influence, the magnificent untitled sculpture he gifted the city of Chicago would have never been.

Creativity is about making something new out of something old. Success is also about sticking with something long enough for it take hold and make a difference in your career.

The Keys to Your Success.

If you make a body of work that is recognizable as coming from the same hand, and it also has appeal to buyers, you are on the track to great success. What’s left at that point are two things:

  1. Find prospects with an attraction to your art.
  2. Communicate with your prospects on a regular basis.

At the end of the day, knowing what kind of art sells best is helpful, but not that important. Getting to know who are your prospects and what they like is much more important. Selling art, especially direct to buyers, is an intimate thing. Your art is personal… to you and your buyers.

You don’t need mass appeal. You need genuine enthusiasm for what you are making from a relatively small number of people to build a successful career. For these reasons, I say paying more attention to what your buyers are showing interest in is far more significant and profitable than worrying about or wondering what is selling best on a macro scale.

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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