Monday, October 03, 2011

What makes somebody buy a painting? (Poll results)

Subject matter, colour and composition are the three most important factors influencing people buying paintings according to the September Making A Mark Poll " Which 3 factors make somebody buy a painting?"

The main reason people tend to buy a painting is "because they like it".  However that needed unpacking as to WHY people like paintings - hence that's the reason why this phrase was not included as an option in the poll.  The poll was also set up so as to see how much weight was accorded to:
  • choice of what to paint 
  • the manner of its execution
  • marketing and selling the painting
Hence in the rest of this post I unpack what that all means in terms of your responses.

153 people responded and I'd like to thank all those who did.  I guess you're interested to see how all the different factors rank!  It's a poll with a large set of possible responses - so to see how the various factors ranked in order of your perceived importance:
  • right click the chart below 
  • open it in a new tab or window to see a much larger chart
right click to open a much larger version in a new tab

Now for a bit more comment and analysis of the responses - some of which were distinctly odd!

Are these the top 10 reasons why people buy paintings?

Below you can see chart of the factors poll respondents identified as being the top 10 reasons why people buy paintings.

Making A Mark Poll - September 2011 - Which 3 factors make somebody buy a painting?
As you can see the 10 most important factors group quite nicely into three distinct groups:
  • visual image: choices made about what the painting will be about (subject mattter) and how it will look (colour; composition and design)
  • marketing: factors influencing sales - specifically the disposable income of the buyer, how good the gallery is at selling and then the price of the painting
  • mastery of techniques: in relation to mastery of technique and media and specific aspects of visual imagery (tonal pattern; drawing the eye in)
QUESTION:  Are you surprised by the responses - and if so, what will you be doing differently in future?

Leaving aside the subject, overall factors relating to how a painting is composed and designed accounted for 4 of the top 10 factors and a third of all responses. 

QUESTION:  How much do you think about colour, composition and design before you start a painting?

What's not important to people buying paintings?

Below, I'm going to demonstrate in this post why the overall priority of some of the respondents'  beliefs might be slightly awry.

This is an analysis of the factors relating to marketing paintings - below is the chart which isolates these factors
Important factors in marketing paintings - ranked according to Making A Mark Poll - September 2011
Now what's really odd here - is the suggestion that the following are little or no importance to selling paintings to collectors.  However maybe the only conclusion we should draw here is that SOME are less important than those identified in the top 10 factors.

Are these less important in influencing people buying paintings?
  • the frame - which as many galleries will tell you can make or break a sale as this can also be an expense if the buyer doesn't like the frame 
  • the size of the artist's fan base - which is odd since this is often an important factor in getting a gallery to sell an artist's paintings.  Plus it makes a lot of difference online as well in relation to profile and number of people likely to look at what's on offer
  • whether or not the art connects with the public - this was the closest I got to a factor which equates to "because I like it".  Unless somebody is an investor I can't imagine anybody buying a painting unless it connected in some way with the buyer.  Another way in which art "connects" with the public is when it is "fashionable" / on trend - but here it seems as if respondents thought this was not very important
  • type of media used - Is this good news or not?  The conventional wisdom of art galleries is that oil paintings sell best - but maybe that's not the most important factor?  So if you are an acrylic or a watercolour artist maybe this is a good thing?  What do you think?
  • selling skills of the artist - I was really surprised to see this one rank so low.  It's almost as if people are saying the art sells itself and what the artist gets up to on the business side has nothing to do with it.
  • collectible artist - again ranked pretty low and yet we "know" that becoming known as an artist worth collecting can help sales enormously - irrespective of whether the artist is any good (insert here the name of the artist that immediately springs to mind!)
  • status of gallery - in theory there is a financial benefit associated in getting into better galleries.  One tends to hope that they are better at selling paintings.  Here it's suggested that gallerist is more important that the gallery ie selling skills matter more than the name and the status.
QUESTION:  Are these factors unimportant or just less important than the top 10 factors influencing people buying paintings?

Other things which are not important to people buying paintings

  • "Looks like a photo" is apparently not an important factor influencing people to buy paintings!

and finally......

Just to get you thinking some more - I want to thank the Twyford Art Group for a tweet response to my tweet about the poll this month.

This led me to Malcolm Gladwell's TED Talk on spaghetti sauce which focuses on what makes people happy - and why the universal response is wrong and differentiation is the way to go.

The important points here are:
  • the so-called "experts" don't know all the right answers - which may well explain why artists periodically reject what the "establishment" says is "good art"
  • people like variety 
    • in marketing terms "horizontal segmentation" is a product with variety.  Thus painting the same subjects works so long as we all paint it differently!
    • horizontal segmentation also means that we can have different products which suit different people (cat lovers like feline art is one of the simplest way of explaining this)
  • people don't know what they want until they see it or experience it
  • which is why new and unique propositions can sometimes generate huge new trends
  • we should focus less on conventional thinking and the search for universals (what's best) 
  • we should focus more understanding the importance of variability (ie what works best for most people - by giving the different groups what they want)
embracing the diversity of human beings is a sure way to find true happiness
Malcolm Gladwell - author of Blink

Any comments on what you've read are always appreciated by both me and the readers of this blog.

There will be a new poll for October up later today and announced in a poll tomorrow.


Susan Roux said...

My first question is who contributed to the poll? It seems to me this is the way an artist might break it down, but I don't think it's accurate. Certainly a name can have a huge impact on sales. Why else are we all trying to make one for ourselves?

I have to say as an artist, subject and composition are always in the forefront along with inspiration when choosing what to paint. As for color, mastery in it is important to me. As for most buyers, I don't think they understand what mastery in color even is. They might be more inclined to say wow this would look great in the living room, it matches the floral toss pillows!

Interesting post. Interesting results. Again, who was polled?

My Portuguese said...

"the size of the artist's fan base - which is odd since this is often an important factor in getting a gallery to sell an artist's paintings. Plus it makes a lot of difference online as well in relation to profile and number of people likely to look at what's on offer"

This discrepancy between what a gallery thinks about fan base and what an individual buyer thinks about fan base does not seem surprising to me at all. I as an individual buyer may respond positively to Mary Doakes' work, but I may very well not care what other people think, or I may have no idea what other people think. However, as a gallery owner, I'd be more likely to sell Mary's paintings if I knew that a 1,000 people liked to look at her art, than if I knew only ten people like to look at her art. As a gallery owner I would want the biggest audience possible.

As a former marketer, I would also like to know more demographic information about the 153(?) responders, which obviously was outside the range of your survey but it might help evaluating what some of the responses mean. I would say that someone who bought five pieces of art for a total of $2000 over the last two years has a very different understanding than someone who bought one piece of art for $50 over the last five years. Or someone who has bought multiple works from the same artist. Some differentiator that would sort buyers into sophisticated and unsophisticated groups so that your analysis might reveal more.

Thanks for conducting the survey and sharing the information.

B. J. Adams Art said...

Good analogy for you to use Malcolm's TED talk of the food industry's variables to break down why one buys which art. Is this a good reason to have multiple jurors rather than a single juror in selecting art for an exhibit?
B. J. Adams

Jools said...

I must have missed the poll, but even if I hadn't, I doubt that I would have had anything meaningful to say, as I have only just started in this "business" and am trying to fathom these things out.

However, I am mystified that art which connects with the public and appropriate framing did not score higher. Perhaps with issues such as the selling skills of the artist and other marketing matters, the reason for the low scoring was due to a slight misunderstanding as to what the question was asking? What makes a person buy a picture is something personal to them, whilst the marketing which goes on behind the scenes is merely the (very important) process whereby the purchaser gets to see the painting in the first place, and perhaps is given a perception about its worth that would be impossible to obtain by simply looking at the picture.

In any event, if price isn't the main factor, we all need to be putting our prices up!!

Nelson Baltazar Castañeda Bernal said...

we need to sell a painting but to paint after a poll could result in a betrayal, do you understand me?

martinealison said...

Mon anglais étant un peu gauche! je me tiendrai de faire quelconque commentaire. Cependant il est toujours très intéressant de lire ce que pense les gens à propos des ventes...

Making A Mark said...

The people who contributed to this poll are as you might expect. In other words a self-selecting sample of the people who read this blog - plus anybody who was told about the poll by the people who read this blog.

My guess is that most of the responses are from artists. However we would be silly to forget that a lot of artists are also art collectors!

I'd love to do a better analysis but don't have the means to do one - not least because of the data protection issues involved in beginning to identify the social dimensions of somebody's profile.

I'd also add that artists also have houses and think about where they place the art they buy! I think that artists who have achieved mastery of colour may well also think very hard about the colour of a piece and where they might locate it before they buy it!

Making A Mark said...

Pretzel - you're spot on about the gallery owners being interested in traffic and followers

I was also assuming that all artists making art all know that the more people see their artwork, the more likely it is to be purchased. So long as it's being seen by people who habitually buy artwork.

Creating traffic and a 'fan' following helps enormously with creating sales whether in a B&M gallery or as an individual marketing art online

Also if I was running a poll as sophisticated as the one you envisage I'd be charging a lot of money for my services (much as I used to do in the past)! ;)

Do please be realistic about what it's possible to do with a Blogger blog poll!

My basic gambit is a bit more knowledge is better than no knowledge at all. It also enables us to ask better questions next time around.....

Making A Mark said...

BJ - I'd certainly think it's more likely that selected artists in an open art competition/exhibition would be less of a reflection of one individual juror than a panel of jurors.

Unless one person held sway over the jury - which is not unknown!

Making A Mark said...

Julie - I'd argue the total process which the artist engages in - from creation through to choices they make about marketing - all contribute to influencing the people buying their art.

If you buy a dire frame, your great painting might be swamped by it, look awful and not sell.

If you persuade people your art is great and you have a huge following - irrespective of whether or not any of this is true - you may well get healthy sales.

I'm sure we can all think of a one or two artists who fall into this latter category!

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