Monday, February 08, 2016

What kind of art do people like to buy online?

Is the type of art that people buy online the same as the sort of art that people like to create?

This post is going to look at:
  • the similarities and differences between the type of art that British and American people buy online
  • how this compares to the type of art that people like to paint.
It's important to realise at the outset that that neither the subjects that people search for or the subjects people like to paint are necessarily a sound indicator of the art that people like to buy.  For example, different subject categories of an online art gallery may have been different "view" and "buy" behaviours.

That's why it's interesting to get a perspective from a website (Artfinder) that is prepared to share data on what sort of art people actually buy.  The data in the charts below was collected by Artfinder and is based on sales figures from 1 January 2015 – 31 December 2015.

What type of art do people buy?

Based on sales data in 1 January - 31 December 2015 (Source: Artfinder)

Last week I was sent some charts and conclusions drawn by Art Finder - an art website that acts as an online gallery for people wanting to sell their original art on the Internet.

What do they like - and dislike? 

People in the UK and USA are very similar in relation to:

  • Liking a Lot
    • Landscapes, sea and sky (around 25% of all purchases), 
    • Flowers and plants (around 9% of all purchases), 
  • Liking Very Little
    • Still Life c. 4%
    • Nudes etc c. 3-4%
    • Transportation and Maps c. 1%
Where they vary significantly is in relation to:
  • Animals and birds - Brits love these (19%)
  • People and portraits - much more an American interest (16%)
Conversely, Americans favoured portraits of people (17%) and abstract and conceptual work (19%) above animals and birds (15%).
On the other hand the top 5 search terms in the UK in 2015 were:
  • Horse
  • Nude
  • London
  • Beach
  • Dog
This is the first year that we have had significant enough data to support this kind of segmentation and the findings are fascinating! We’ve always known that animals have been a strong category for us across all markets
Jonas Almgren, CEO of Artfinder

What kind of art do people like to create?

It reminded me of a poll I did back on 2009 where I asked people what was their favourite subject to paint - see Genres and the results of "What's your favourite subject matter?"

Making A Mark Poll: What's your favourite subject?
I checked - and found discrepancies between what people liked as subjects for their artwork - and the subjects that the Artfinder data suggests people buy.

My explanation for the discrepancy on portraits is that the bulk of portraits will be commissions rather than purchases from online art galleries.  Other than that the general trend is very similar with the only other significant discrepancy relating to conceptual/abstract art.

Obviously the artists who responded to this poll are different from those who provided the data for the artwork sold on Artfinder.  Also this poll relates to all artwork made and the Artfinder data relates to art sold online. The discrepancies suggest further areas for exploration.

What kind of style of art do people like?

Interestingly there's a very close relationship between the style of artwork liked by purchasers in both the UK and USA

Based on sales data in 1 January - 31 December 2015 (Source: Artfinder)


  • Impressionist Landscapes are a safe bet!
  • If you like doing portraits - you'd do better painting animals than people in the UK and/or stick to commissions as a source of income
  • Those submitting lots of still life paintings to open exhibitions might like to ask themselves if they might do better to get out in the fresh air and paint landscapes instead!
I think I'm going to try and see if can crunch some more numbers in future to see if the Art Finder data is a one off or whether it's replicated in other places.

Note: Artfinder is growing quickly. The owners tell me that they currently have over 500,000 subscribers worldwide with 180,000+ pieces of art from 6,000 independent artists around the world.


    1. thanks, very interesting. I saw something like this a while back. I remember the impressionistic style and landscapes as favorites

    2. I am very surprised to read that still life is so low. It seems they are everywhere and I always attributed that to popularity among the buying public. Some art galleries I have been in devote most of their walls to still life. But then this was about online sales.

      Landscape I can see, especially impressionist landscape which is everywhere.
      I do wonder how much sales is related to the higher % of certain subjects available for sale. If there are far more landscapes then it would reason the sale numbers would be higher automatically.

      The differences are all very interesting. Also the Artfinder chart separates architecture/cityscape(urban) from landscape (nature only?) where yours fall into a scenes category and yet they both are on the high side of the chart.

      Any guess as to why still life does not sell better?

    3. Very interesting insights into both sides of the coin. Most artists create their work as that is what they are passionate about and are unlikely to change because of this but some who are working out which of their subjects to focus on will hopefully take note of the comments above. For me I paint Flowers, garden and landscapes as my main work having decided a while ago not to do many more animals. I also am creating WWI commemoration art which is a very tiny area that few artists today seem to be inspired by. It doesn't matter to me that not many people will be interested in buying this as for me it is a passion and a subject that I need to follow through until 2019. Thanks for sharing this information as I find evaluation like this very interesting!

    4. That's very interesting. I was on Artfinder for 18 months, sold just 2 impressionistic landscapes! Ended up leaving the site as I was putting a lot of effort into uploading work etc, and then saw Artfinder take their 30%+ commission. I'm now on Etsy, where I've made more sales in 6 months than on Artfinder plus they don't take anywhere near as much commission.
      BUT there's nothing like selling to someone face-to-face at an open studio/exhibition, and in my experience people prefer to buy like that rather than online. What a funny old world the art market is :)

    5. Dear Katherine,

      Above all, it's always interesting and useful finding somebody involved in the art as you are. And even if this matter seems to have or really has a mere economic interest, it allows us to see the people's trend when, as buyers, they approach the market.

      However, it has or may have, simultaneously, another repercussion: artists working according to the people's taste —what, unfortunately, is already real, such as artists working according to the curators' philosophy, art dealers, critics and so on, experts who stay, many times, far from the essence of the Art.

      So, if this kind of statistics, as curiosity, can be useful for the artists, I wish it without influence on their affective behavior, once the Art world to be, fundamentally, one world of affections, in which the techniques are the tools to express feelings and emotions that are unique because they are personal.

      In the same way, the buyers must be accepted as people who have their affections and correspondent preferences. We can talk about education, and empty interests when we see somebody buy an artwork as investment, only —I use to say that people must buy a painting as I paint my subjects: when they call my affective interest.

      My apologies for my English language, which is not enough good.

      Congratulations and my best wishes.

      Rodrigo Costa

    6. When the Artfinder figures came out I found that my experience closely matched the findings. My top sellers are seascapes and pet portraits followed by landscapes and florals. I would love to paint and sell more large abstracts but I don't sell enough of them to make it worthwhile. My seascapes can be quite abstract, so that keeps me happy. Rodrigo has some good points. I wish he had typed in Spanish so I could use a translator and really understand what he's saying. My Spanish is atrocious so I have to hand it to him for making the effort.

    7. Hi, Dear Sea Dean!
      Sorry for my English, which I'm trying improve —it already was worse, I must say :-)

      I'm going to translate my previous comment but in Portuguese language, once the Spanish has significative differences:

      — Cara Katherine,

      Acima de tudo, é, sempre, interessante e útil encontrar alguém envolvido na Arte, tal como você está. E mesmo se este assunto parece ter ou tem, de facto, mero interesse económico, permite-nos conhecer a tendência das pessoas, enquanto compradoras, abordam o mercado da Arte.

      No entanto, tem ou pode ter, simultaneamente,uma outra repercussão: levar artistas a produzir de acordo com o gosto do público —o que, infelizmente, já é uma realidade; tal como há quem trabalhe sujeito pela vontade de curadores, galeristas, críticos, etc, etc, etc, experts que ficam, muitas vezes, longe do é a Arte, como essência.

      Então, este tipo de estatísticas podem ser úteis, como curiosidade, mas que eu desejaria que não tivesse influência no comportamento afectivo dos artistas, uma vez que o mundo da Arte é, fundamentalmente, mundo de afectos, no qual as técnicas são a ferramenta para a expressão de sentimentos e emoções únicas, porque são pessoais.

      Como artistas, devemos aceitar que as pessoas, enquanto compradoras, têm, também, os seus afectos e preferências correspondentes. Podemos falar sobre a sua educação e sobre o interesse vazio de quem compra obras de arte por investimento, apenas —costumo dizer que os compradores devem adquirir as pinturas tal como eu decido o que pintar: quando os motivos atraem o meu interesse afectivo.

      Nota: Peço desculpa, pelo meu Inglês, o qual não é bom o suficiente

      Parabéns e os meus melhores desejos

      Espero,Sea Dean, que, agora, possas compreender melhor o meu comentário :-)

      Thank you for your approach | Obrigado, pela sua observação.

    8. Was there any data on the type of media buyers prefer?

      Thanks so much for all you do.

    9. There may have been - but none in the data supplied to me

    10. Very interested in your findings. Thank you Katherine.


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