November 25

What Kind of Art Sells Best? How to Get More Art Sales

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What Kind of Art Sells Best? How to Get More Art Sales

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

The Question Vexes Many Artists.

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

Picasso - Nude, Green Leaves and Bust
Picasso – Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust

Picasso’s painting Picasso – Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust shown here held the record for the most expensive painting sold at $106 million for years. The recent $145 million sale of a newly found work by Leonard da Vinci eclipsed him.

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 stores. Not surprisingly, landscapes and florals perennially topped the list. They go in any decor and are as non-controversial as you can get.

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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 wholly 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.

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. It would help if you also had 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 about trends. Moreover, you presumably aren’t reading blog posts about art marketing either.

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Since you are reading this, we’ll go with you 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.

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 entirely 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.

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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 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 entirely 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 to take hold and make a difference in your career.

The Keys to Your Success.

If you make a recognizable body of work as coming from the same hand, and it appeals to buyers, you are on 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 regularly.

Finally, realizing what kind of art sells best is helpful, but not that important. Getting to know who your prospects are and what they like is much more critical. 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. It would be best if you had a 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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About the Author

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

Barney Davey

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  1. Hi Barney. Thanks so very much for all these links. I haven’t looked at most of them. Not only will it be educational, but fun too. I do enjoy seeing what is selling out there. I don’t mind changing what I do a bit – maybe it amounts to tweaking. For instance, sales of my traditional work has begun to lag – probably because I paint like a thousand other artists, so I’m creating a body of work (same subjects I already do), but brighter color with more design. I think it’ll appeal to someone who has modern decor in their home.

    The important thing is that I’m having more fun than ever creating these new works. I’m getting positive feedback from them – even from folks who have collected my past work. I find it interesting that my collectors like my newer style even more than my old one… in fact, I’m downright surprised. Who would have thought?

    Anyway, I’ll look up some of these links. Thanks again! Your past work experience is really helping us artists.

    1. Hi Lori, You’re welcome. I trust you’ll find some useful tidbits amongst the links I posted. It’s great news to know you are having fun making art. And, getting great feedback has to make it that much sweeter!

  2. Hi Barney,
    There is a difference between “trendy” and “comfortable”art appealing to two different sorts of buyers. As an art rep for 20 years I sold to both kinds of buyers. About 85% of my customers were Interior Designers, Decorators and Architects. This is a huge market many artists overlook if their sole quest is for the “100 Collectors that can Bulletproof” a career. They bought art from me over and over again for years. Sometimes a single piece, sometimes several, often a score of pieces and occasionally hundreds, depending on the project they were working on. I sold more “comfortable” art by far. By comfortable I mean art that wears well; art the owner will look at and enjoy daily for years, and sometimes pass on to children who grow up with, and grow to love a special piece.

    That doesn’t mean artists shouldn’t be aware of trends, particularly color trends, as many of your links above show. You’ve noted that florals and landscapes are ever popular. These “wear well,” but don’t think for a second we are talking about”ho-hum” images. My best selling artists painted those subjects time and again, but my top sellers painted with a “just noticeable difference” in style, palette, or conception that set their images apart. My buyers may not have been able to verbalize what the JND was, but they recognized it immediately and wrote checks to acquire it.

    “Trendy” art is sometimes purchased to impress friends or business associates, to build a body of work that may become collectible and increase in value, or satisfy a buyer’s particular taste for the unusual. All are valid reasons to purchase – including “comfortable” art. I dealt with a number of “cutting edge” designers who recognized what was about to be “hot” before it came to a boil. They recognized “trendy” and led hundreds of other designers into trends that became comfortable over time.

    You and I have collaborated on HOW TO SELL ART TO INTERIOR DESIGNERS. For many, it has become a manual for making money without abandoning “serious” art. There are a few “nose-in- the-air artists” who denigrate “decorative”and “comfortable” as less than worthwhile. Some may even believe “marketing” is beneath them. A few may have reached their ivory towers, but most starve a little each day in their garrets. Your blog, books and Art Marketing Mastery are keys to success any artist willing to invest a few dollars, time and attention can turn.

  3. Thanks Barney! Your guidance to find prospects and stay in touch with them is a real winner.

    With the electronic tools we have available today, there is no reason not to do this.

    I also agree that we need inspiration and mentors to learn from, and if we’re lucky, someone like you or Maria B. to help us to become promoters of our work. If we are fortunate and steadfast, we will master our craft and grow in confidence to become self promoters. Some of us will take 10,000 hours of practice to get there. Others will arrive sooner. If we are wise, we will follow in the steps of those we admire and find our unique way to express what our audience likes and wants to purchase. Thank you for your support and guidance!

  4. I don’t think there’s anything at all with wanting to create art that sells, and the idea that someone would think that’s “wrong” for some reason just seems silly to me. I mean, if someone likes your art so much they want to PAY YOU MONEY just so they can have it for themselves, then that must mean it’s pretty good, right? So essentially when you say you want to make art that sells, you’re saying that you want to create good art, and who can argue with that?

    That’s my take on it anyway.

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