Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who's Buying Paintings These Days - Part 2

The Tortilla Lady, 9x12, oil - $150 - contact Michael

I had over 90 responses to my survey on buyer demographics. It's a small sample of the buying population, and no doubt it is biased toward my own network of buyers, students and followers. Although I did have one billionaire - really! - cruise through the Campobello Island gallery a few years ago and buy a truckload of paintings, she's at the far end of the bell curve. With that in mind, here are some interesting statistics, starting with what people are buying:
  • Over 87% buy landscapes. I am, after all, a landscape painter! But each of the other categories - abstract, figurative and still life - had approximately a 20% share. (You'll note that some questions end up with more than 100%; these allowed for multiple responses.)
  • Over 62% buy impressionistic work. Half buy "somewhat realistic" work" and and nearly a third "expressive" work. A tiny percentage, 4%, buy photo-realistic work.
  • A strong majority of 73% purchase work that evokes a mood. A little over a third buy because the work evokes a memory of a particular place. Nearly half buy work that they want to study in order to improve their own painting skills. Whether a painting had bright or muted colors didn't seem to matter so much - 15% or less responded positively to this question.

Now let's look at who's doing the buying.
  • More than 82% of respondents are 50 or older. Twelve percent are 70 or older. Only 2% are in the 21-29 age group.
  • Over 70% have only a bachelor's degree. Over 30% have a graduate degree.
  • Nearly 70% are employed. About a quarter are retired. Of those employed, over 70% are self-employed. Surprisingly, nearly 75% of those employed are either full-time or part-time professional artists.
  • Slightly more than 86% of the respondents buy one or more paintings a year. About 14% have never bought a painting. Two percent say they haven't and probably won't.

So what does all of this mean?
  • The average painting could be described as an impressionistic landscape that evokes a mood.
  • The average buyer is over 50 with at least a college education and is self-employed as a professional artist. He or she buys at least one painting a year.

Now the question is, Should this data guide me in my future work and the marketing of it? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.


Dado93047 said...

Sometimes what you feel and what you want come closer to what is best for you. I also think that will show in the final product and that in itself will sell a painting. You are right about what people want, but not as fullfilling as your wants.

opie said...

Remember that most of the population of N America does not have any college/university degree, so that level is a small segment of the whole. I find so-called "uneducated" people buy both my art and others' art - or most happily accept our paintings in barter. Appreciation isn't limited to the educated, although the money to buy is more concentrated there and information about how OK it is to appreciate is more prevalent among the educated/

opie said...

Re painting with some demographic in mind: I doubt that you can do it and still make work that is authentically yours. It is part of that snare "If you can fake sincerity, you've got it made." No one can, although only the truly sincere are likely to notice. If you simply do it (paint for a different demographic segment) by painting as you always have, but shifting your marketing, then you aren't needing to shift your own expression to entice any specific group, just enlarge your marketing sphere.

I think that most hacks are people painting with only the goal to sell, not to make the best art they can. We need to sell to live - or at least to buy more paints &c, but we still have to focus on making our art the best we can and developing a self-awareness that will help lead us forward in our skills or authenticity. Keep your freedom to grow, adjust you rmarketing.

David Carroll said...

Wow, a loaded question. No, the data should not guide your work.

Vincent & Theo make this clear:

Theo worked for the market. As an art marketeer, eg. gallerist, he profited enough to survive, eventually. But, the only lasting impact he left on the world was being a relative of and gallerist for Vincent's work. He spent too much time painting the financial ledgers and not enough time putting oil on a canvas.

Vincent, in contrast, rebelled against the market...against the average buyer...and instead painted from his soul. He painted not motivated by profit, not to assuage tastes of the average buyer, but rather to express his own views and experiences of life.

I believe echoing Vincent's passion will make your art--and your life--mean more. In the end, your work will represent what you want the world to know, not what the "average" buyer wants to know.

Cindy said...

The data might guide your marketing from the standpoint that there is a whole lot of folks not turned on to buying art...yet! If anyone can afford an iphone and/or a designer purse (shoes) then they can afford original is just a matter of making them care about it. How I answer that question will be better than painting what I think they think they want. Steve Jobs said they have no idea of what they want...yet!

Jo Castillo said...

Very interesting survey and comments. I think there is a buyer for every painting, you just have to keep looking. I think the younger crowd is into more modern, funky, electric, digital installations and not painting. Just observations, no data to back it up. We have to make buying art more fun and appealing -- an experience. I'm over 60 and see that the traditional way is not the only way. The First Fridays here in our small town are an older crowd. How do we entice the younger generation? Hmmmm.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Great comments, everyone! No, I don't plan to paint to the demographics. As someone said, that's an unsatisifying and risky route to take. I'll paint what I want the way I want. And I'm sure there'll always be someone out there who'll want it!

CarolT said...

Thank you for doing the survey and also posting the results.

I think I would reiterate what others have said, painters should paint what they want to paint. However, your results do provide good marketing / statistical information on what to do with the painting once you've painted it! That is the gold mine you've uncovered.

One piece of marketing I would offer would be for artists to at least network themselves with designers. Home designers. Your numbers back this up, mid-age crowd, educated, money...they are likely to hire someone for advice when it comes to decorating or redecorating. Especially empty nesters who may be ridding themselves of the "past" furniture and wall hangings to the kids and are now ready for a new look! It is something to consider and taking a well known (in your area) interior designer/decorator out to lunch and then a tour of your portfolio would not be a bad idea. In fact, let them see the real thing (as nothing impacts the person as much as the original) and then have a portfolio booklet to leave with them.

Just a thought/suggestion. Keep painting what you want to paint! That's what it's all about. But let others that don't paint know how to access what you do for that particular space they have been hired to fill.

Charlotte Herczfeld said...

Interesting. I'm in northern Europe, and my sales statistics show the same trend. (Very few students or artists in my stats, mostly people who appreciate culture and are educated.) Luckily, I do paint impressionist landscapes already. Would I let your data guide me, or recommend that you heed it? To me, it is not a yes/no question. Do I need to eat and pay my bills? You bet. And that is a reason to paint what is bought. Should an artist paint only for the market? No, the creative spark demands breaking new trails, to go out in the unknown and find the treasure. Monet might be a good example: he painted what sold, and he also painted for himself -- he did both. Until he reached the point where he was financially secure, and could be free. There's the whole point, the painter who is free can choose.

Patti said...

I would answer no, you must paint what you love and in the style that
moves you as an artist. I sold 5 paintings of birds last sunday in a gallery
I am in, and that does not meant I will concentrate on bird paintings.
It only means it reflects my love of birds and the fun of capturing them.

Jolyn Wells-Moran said...

Not a good idea to market based on a non-random survey, although I bet the results are accidentally not far off from being true of a random one -- except for the percentage of the whole who buy and how often.

Bobraglandl said...

it' s all a gamble. I don't try to second guess the audience. I make the work, show it when I can. Sometimes , I get paid. See my

Jmoller said...

Lovely warm colors in this painting and a very nice mood.

Danielawashere said...

Conversely, the higher moral ground of pe-degree can keep ordinary people miles away from exhibitions because they believe they "don't know anything about art". I have never sold a work of art where a buyer asked what my art background was nor did I ask them theirs. The only people who have been curious and asked me about my art background have been ambitious starter artists. The art teacher in college when I was there, who received the greatest respect from students, and, who orchestrated the best class exhibitions, was one who insisted that intelligence has many ways of being measured. When I seriously look at some so called primitive art, I sometimes see high levels of sophistication and qualities that cannot be taught.

I think retain as much individuality as possible, love what you do and enjoy the surprises.

Gary Bexter said...

really interesting article to see before buy paintings lot of useful tips on this post

Tuzigoot said...

Jo - they did a "Burning Man" here in Vegas on a recent 1st Friday - it drew a huge crowd. I wasn't there, but I suspect it was not an old group. - Linda (tuzigoot)

scott said...

Some pretty designs alright. Doing the painting yourselves is more fun but a good place for ideas for more design is this
site of, that I use to help with my wall decorations.

You can browse for a painting like this The tree, by 20th century Czech artist, Frantisek Kupka, for example,
, that can be ordered on line and delivered to you.