What Kind of Art Sells Best?

Art doesn’t sell itself, it has to be sold.

— Jack White

The Question of What Type of Art Sells Best Is Puzzling.

It’s nearly impossible to answer what kind of art will sell best accurately. That’s because the question is too broad. So, we need to drill down. For instance, are we talking about original paintings, sculptures, mixed media, digital art, or reproductions? Regardless, there is help for you to find out what art styles are the better sellers. So, please keep reading.

Understanding what kind of art to make is a factor in art marketing. Often, specialized insight is advantageous in selling your art, knowing what current motifs are in the wholesale home furnishings markets.

Florals and Landscapes Dominate?

I worked for nearly two decades for Decor magazine as “the bible” for retail art galleries and picture frame shops during its heyday. Over the years, Decor magazine frequently surveyed its readers to ask what sold kind of art 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.

Free Art Business Checklist Download
Free Art Business Checklist Download

Your question is, “What do you do with this information?” I believe researching the resources I’m providing will help you. However, letting them slightly modify your creative process would be best. Soak up the info and ideas and use them wisely to make the journey worthwhile.

Suppose you are not reading this for infotainment and plan to follow my advice, then good for you. There’s more than enough here to keep you very busy. And I appreciate you for reading my posts for whatever reasons you choose.

This post gives you a running start on researching art trends. publishes its bestsellers. Due to its annual sales volume, learning what’s hot there is informative. Many poster publishers, as do other sites selling art online, show what’s hot on their websites. 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 advertise. Art print wholesaler,, publishes a bestseller list, as well.

Some Types of Art Are Perennial Bestsellers.

I’ve seen lists of bestselling art types for decades. The categories don’t change much, if at all. Whatever inventory you find, it’s sure to have these categories of bestselling art, and beyond landscapes and florals, they are in no particular order because of location influence:

  • Landscapes
  • Florals
  • Local scenes
  • Contemporary abstract landscapes
  • Pet portraits.
  • Figure studies
  • Seascapes, marine areas, including sandy beach scenes
  • Wildlife
  • Portraits
  • Still lifes
  • Impressionism
  • Nudes

Research, Take the Influence, and Do What You Want.

The reality is these suggestions are just that. Another thought is to stop trying to please others and make the art you like. Then find your POP (Pocket of People) who shares your preferences.
If you are unsure about your style direction, pick one from the list you like the most and go for it. You are allowed to flourish and change your mind and your style.

Free Art Business Checklist Download
Free Art Business Checklist Download

Remember that you only need a handful of loyal buyers to launch a successful art business. You can be quirky and get by (better than many might imagine), or go corporate and ample time, or something in between. It’s up to you where you go, but that matters most as long as it meets your needs.

Consumer Sites Are Worth a Look.

Try leafing through the latest Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware catalogs for ideas. Those two of dozens of online sites sell home decor, including original art and reproductions. is a juried site worth checking out. You can look at or 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 regularly that you have artwork they should own. That is the art business in its most simplistic terms.

Being informed about trends is good for boosting sales. If you create art for the ages, you probably don’t care about trends. Moreover, you presumably aren’t reading blog posts about art marketing either.

Free Art Business Checklist Download
Free Art Business Checklist Download

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 art history.

If that’s you, and you want your art to sell well, then it makes sense that you would like to know what other kinds of art sell best. It doesn’t have to be entirely monetary-driven. You may be interested in what other artists are up to because it stimulates your creativity in novel ways.

Creativity Is Borrowed and Stolen.

Good artists copy, great artists steal.

— Pablo Picasso

I observed successful artists mix their creativity with inspiration from what’s happening in their world. Art has always been made this way. I’m sure cave dwellers borrowed ideas from each other.

Artists seek out and absorb inspiration from their peers. Great artists are influenced greatly and significantly affected by other artists’ concepts. If they didn’t, we would never have movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Art Deco, etc.

Taking Influence Stretches Beyond Visual Arts.

Bob Dylan had an enormous influence over popular music in his day. He, in turn, found inspiration from the music of artists as varied as Little Richard, Woody Guthrie, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Robert Johnson. The Beach Boys’ intricate harmonies and rhythmic sounds influenced The Beatles and vice-versa. Nothing is made in a vacuum when it comes to art and creativity.

Inspiration is everywhere. It’s waiting for you to see it!

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 note 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. But, of course, that sometimes works in the short run; it is a career killer in the long run.

Untitled, Pablo Picasso, 1963 courtesy of
Untitled, Pablo Picasso, 1963, courtesy of

You’re looking for a delicate balance between entirely original ideas and those formed by outside influences. Picasso’s interest 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 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 unimportant. Getting to know your prospects and what they like is much more critical. Selling art, straightforward to buyers, is an intimate thing. Your art is personal… to you and your buyers.

You don’t need mass appeal. To build a successful career, it would be best to have genuine enthusiasm from a few people for what you are doing. For these reasons, 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.

Free Art Business Checklist Download
Free Art Business Checklist Download


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  • Andrew Bailey says:

    Do your comments apply whichever side of the pond one is located?

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • Richard Harrison says:

    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.

    • Dick, what can I say? You are a marvel and an inspiration. Thanks for your support and generosity over the years!

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Thank you for your comment, Stacy. I could not agree more. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

    Aside from patrons and collectors who seek to find and support artists, art is most often a one-time purchase to fill an immediate need, such as complementing a design or filling an empty wall space.” That is why cultivating relationships with Interior Designers is a smart move while you work to build a loyal collector base. Here’s why:
    1. There are many more Interior Designers than galleries, As Barney has noted at the beginning of this blog post “and more art is sold through IDs than through all the galleries combined.
    2. IDs will buy over and over from sources they come to know and trust.
    3. In many cases, ID’s will purchase more than a single piece of art if they find images that complement one another and fit spaces within the project they are working on.
    4. Most often IDs MUST purchase art in order to complete a project before they can get paid for their work.
    5. You do not have to have a “name” or “reputation” to sell to a designer. If the art fits the design scheme and budget for the project at the time they need it, they WILL buy.
    6. Designers love to work with artists who will do art to their color, size and budget. If you offer POD images of your art printed to their specs, you have a great sales tool and you can sell the same image many times.
    7. Your one-of-a-kind original will be valued more highly by many potential buyers because it has been “editioned” as prints at a lower price.
    8. ID’s belong to professional organizations such as ASID and will recommend your work to others if they like your work.
    9. You don't need to frame your work to sell to IDs. In fact, it may kill a sale. The ID will usually want to custom frame with proper mat and frame style and often works with a framer they use often. They won't want to eat the cost of your frame and neither will you. IDs are used to seeing art "in the raw" – color splashes or thumbtack holes around a watercolor. Canvas, acrylic or giclee prints rolled up for convenience in carrying. Cuts your costs!
    10. If you have established a consistent sales record with IDs, it will help you when you approach a gallery to carry your art or approach a potential collector. As Barney also noted in his post, it takes money to collect art. These are the people who have the dollars to hire professional help when they decorate their homes. Have you read How To Sell Art To Interior Designers – the book Barney and I co-authored? That’s a word to the wise.

  • Justin W. Goatcher says:

    Thanks for the info

  • Duck Harrison says:

    As an Art Rep I carried artwork by an excellent artist whose work was shown in a number of major museums. He not only had a sense of what would sell but a sense of humor. The message on his answering machine said: Hi, this is Larry Stark,, famous artist. I can match any sofa..

    • Thanks for your insightful experienced observation. How can you not like someone who is both humorous and confident enough to make such a statement?

  • My favorite part of this article is that you should have enthusiasm instead of other things when making art. My aunt mentioned to me the other night that she wants to buy a 20th-century painting that she will add to her collection, and she asked if I had any idea what would be the best option to consider. Thanks to this instructive article, I'll be sure to tell her that we can consult fine art for sale service as they can provide more information about their paintings.

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