What Kind of Art Sells Best? Reposting on Best-Selling Art Subjects

Having a handle on current color trends and hot subject matter is important. Using them to match the interests of your buyers and collectors will grow your art sales.

What Art Sells Best?

Kohler’s Pig is a painting of a diving pig by the German artist Michael Sowa. He is famous for his whimsical illustrations of animals and his work has appeared in many movies and books.(Image courtesy!)

pigs fly

 This post was inspired by a question posed on a 2007 thread. In 2010, I re-posted here my answer to, “What Kind of Art Sells Best?”

Judging the subject’s popularity by the number of hits it gets on Art Print Issues, I have updated and republished it.

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Some Advice Is Timeless.

It seems while some advice is timely and best for the moment; other pearls of wisdom stand the test of time better.

I borrowed this post’s title from a thread’s subject line: “What Kind of Art Sells Best?”  Should you read the thread, you will find a wide variety of interesting comments and perspectives offered. Here are mine.

Having a handle on current color trends and hot subject matter is important. Knowing how to use them to match the interests of your buyers and collectors will grow your art sales 

I think originals and reproductions sell differently to different kinds of buyers. Price points also make a difference. Over the decades before the 135-year old Decor magazine became defunct, it frequently surveyed its readers to ask what sells best in their retail art and picture frame shops. Not surprisingly, landscapes and florals perenially topped the list. These are the 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?

Tradeshows Offer Insights for Artists publishes its Top 100 selling prints. As a trends perspective, it is always informative. 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.

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Artists and publishers consistently are too savvy to 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 former Decor Expo Atlanta and ArtExpo Las Vegas used to be an intimate and informative way to do trendspotting.  Unfortunately, both shows have been long canceled with no signs for being resurrected.

ArtExpo New York is still operating, and remains the place to be seen for top fine art print publishers. It runs this year from March 22 -25 on Pier 92 in Manhattan. If you are able, make the effort to take in the show. You won’t find more contemporary high-end published art anywhere.

Utilize Consumer Catalogs and Websites Devoted to Home Furnishings

Try leafing though the latest Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware catalogs. You will find color schemes from these trendsetting companies. They have researched and bet millions in production and marketing costs that these colors will help drive sales. Taking a clue from them can help you make more sales, too.

If you research the print reproduction and licensing markets for opportunities, you will find color trends and subject matter in the home furnishings category. 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.

Trends Only Help When You Know Your Audience

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.

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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. Studying the work of any well known contemporary artist will prove  this theory.

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 aggressively looking to 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.


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  1. ‘art and other decorative accessories’. Is that what people think of their art?

    Barney, this isn’t aimed at you, the article is good in its context. It is the context I keep questioning. I think art is getting cheapened by the emphasis on having to sell, compete, market, muscle in, contrive, please,play along with.

    That is only part of the story, and no part at all of the process of creativity, transformation, healing and solace art can bring when it is made according to other values than market ones.

    Of course it can bring all of these within the market, but it is harder.

  2. The biography of Constantin Brancusi, one of my art heroes, notes he worked in creating decorative art. I don’t see whey there has to be a conflict. To my mind, it’s only there because you choose it to be so. Taking clues from what is around you is normal and helpful. If you take clues from sources that will help you find your art hanging in more places, while not interrupting your creative process, you can have it all… and why not?

  3. Ok, point taken.
    I don’t think decorative art is the problem.I do a lot of decorative art.

    It is seeing art as one more accessory, which plants works of art firmly in the realm of ‘things to buy’ And artists purely as suppliers of products.

    I think, looking at the state of our world, we need more art that connects and reconciles and feeds soul, rather than art made to match the latest designer curtains.

    But that’s me, and an unpopular view in some circles, I understand.

  4. Anytime you have a view, it’s going to be unpopular somewhere. I never espouse to have all the answers because I’ve seen too many artists successfully using their own unique variation of creating art and getting it to market. Some of it confounds about why it got made in the first place and then bought to boot. Same with marketing art. If you look at art as a spiritual tool, it can still be commercial success. Robert Indiana’s iconic Love sculpture comes to mind.

    I am one who is throwing out ideas and suggestions based on my observations about how to succeed in the business of art. I rarely, if ever, advise what the content of the art should be. That has to come from the artist, but I can’t fault someone who is honest enough to admit they let a trend influence them.

    Cheers, Barney

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