What themes and subjects sell the most in art? Which mediums and genres sell best? What sizes of paintings sell more – smaller or larger ones? These are some important questions that every artist should be asking when he decides to put his work up for sale.
I like to be sure of what will sell in the art market, even though my personal favorites are conceptual paintings which are a mix of realism as well as abstract art. For me, the true meaning behind what I paint takes precedence over the monetary gains I can obtain from it. However, when it comes to the cash inflow, I make sure I brush up my knowledge about the current art trends.
Today’s post is my endeavor to share with you all my own little nuggets regarding what needs to be considered when selling art. This information is based on my personal experiences hence should not be considered as a benchmark for improving sales.
What are the Best-selling Themes and Subjects in Art?
If your favorite subject happens to be among the popular ones, you’re in for luck. Keep in mind that you will sell more if you focus on your strengths rather than painting mediocre versions of something that’s not really your cup of tea. Even though one may not be making art solely to sell it, it may end up happening that way. For instance, an artist located in a tourist set up may find himself painting local scenery and landscapes as they will sell easily, thereby helping him pay his bills. But this doesn’t stop him from painting what he likes to, in his signature style. Here is a list of some popular themes and subjects that do well commercially in the art market:
- Local scenes, landscapes and seascapes (modern, impressionistic or semi-abstract) – Landscape painting is the most popular and common subject for art owing to its versatile nature. Not only do people love looking at a picturesque and scenic panorama, but also like to invest in the visual representation of one, so as to keep reliving its spectacular beauty. Moreover a landscape works well in any type of decor or ambience. So what types of landscapes sell best? Many artists like to depict their local scenery in the form of landmarks, historical events or heritage sites that are exclusively characteristic of their area. Seascapes, harbors, and beach scenes all sell particularly well, probably because of their association with holidays, vacations, and relaxation.
- Abstract paintings –Most people buy art with the aim to match it with their décor. Abstract art fulfils this requirement hence sells well. An abstract painting can simply be interpreted as a colour, texture, or shape, which helps maintain a certain level of uniformity with the home decoration. Besides this, abstraction has a nonrepresentational or symbolic approach, so its interpretation becomes subject to each individual viewer, thus making it easier to sell.
- Paintings of dogs, cats and wildlife – People love owning paintings of dogs as much as they love their dogs as a painting of a dog invokes feelings of intimacy and affection, while paintings of wildlife suggest untamed, uninhibited nature. Perhaps for these reasons such paintings do well in the art market.
- Figure studies and nudes – Whether it is abstract or impressionistic portraits or figure studies, people enjoy looking at images of humans. Although the trend is shifting towards attired rather than bare bodies, there will probably always be a market for nudes.
What sells better – Original Art or Prints?
It has been noticed that prints usually sell better than original works, probably because they are less expensive. And of course many prints are sold as decorative items, as they can be mixed and matched with different colour schemes. Limited-edition prints are more popular than open-edition ones as art buyers somehow seem to find the idea of a controlled supply quite appealing. When an artist put a limit on how many prints he or she will make, it attracts buyers as they feel they are killing two birds with one stone – investing in something that is almost original but less expensive than the original, yet “exclusive” and not entirely mass-produced.
What Medium of Art Sells Best?
Ideally, the following 7 mediums of art sell better than others:
- Offset-litho prints (original as well as limited-edition).
- Giclée prints (original as well as limited-edition).
- Oil and acrylic paintings.
- Artists’ original prints (e.g. etchings and engravings).
What Size Painting Sells the Best?
The general consensus among most artists is that it is commercially more viable to work on smaller canvases than larger ones as the former are generally priced lower than the latter, so not only do they appeal to buyers for monetary reasons, but also because they take up less space and demand less of an aesthetic instinct. Having said that, it is equally important to take into consideration that the earnings from a large number of smaller paintings might be equal to those obtained from a fewer larger paintings. Hence, most commercially successful artists work with a range of sizes to appeal to a wider audience.
Some artists purposefully create a range of small paintings with a common theme or style as they feel it will encourage buyers to pick up the entire series. Another advantage of working on a smaller scale is that the paintings require less storage space and are easier for the artist to accommodate even if they don’t sell right away.
What is your Target Market?
Target market is a very important factor to be considered when selling art. In order to successfully target a particular buying community, artists need to focus on marketing as well to certain extent. Here are some points to consider depending on the type of buyer you are targeting:
- If you are selling through a gallery, your art needs to cater to the likes and requirements of its patrons. Highly priced works are best suited for galleries and least for museums and private collectors.
- Private and commercial buyers usually use art as décor for offices etc, whereas interior decorators and designers will have specific artistic requirements.
- The pricing of your work will depend on the disposable income as well as the budget of the buyer in question.
- Home décor primarily depends on low priced copies or prints of originals and thus constitutes the largest market for art.
- Art can be propagated through product development in various formats like, mugs, postcards, calendars, etc., which is a pretty lucrative market in itself.
My Experiences with Sales
I have realized that I can generate better sales for my art when it is displayed in a physical space like a gallery rather than an online virtual space. The reason behind this could be that my viewers get to experience my work at close quarters, hence are able to appreciate it much more for various elements, especially colors and textures. Moreover, they get a better understanding of the medium, technique and the surface I have used to create the artwork. Most of my paintings are texture-laden and this aspect comes through best when viewed in person. So if you want to emphasize and highlight the USP of your work, an art show or gallery display would be the best option.
I have also realized that keeping myself abreast with the latest art trends goes a long way as it keeps me updated with what is selling currently in the art market, thereby giving me better returns for my work. When it comes to selling my art, I take the practical approach and paint what’s in demand. But that doesn’t stop me from painting what I like so both go hand and hand for me. The trick is to strike equilibrium between both. In conclusion, I would like to say that success in any commercially aimed artistic undertaking can depend on a combination of all these factors. After all, selling art is no less than any business endeavor , so if you want to make money, treat it like one!
One thought on “What Kind of Art Sells?”
Very interesting piece and one which brings out the many nuances and complexities of the art world!