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 Art.com!)

pigs fly

 This post was inspired by a question posed on a 2007 WetCanvas.com 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 WetCanvas.com 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

Art.com 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.

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.

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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.

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?

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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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