Initial Results from Xanadu Gallery’s 2016 State of the Art Survey

The results are in for Xanadu Gallery’s 2016 State of the Art Survey and we’ve been reviewing responses to parse out the current state of the art market for artists across the country. I would like to thank the 1147 artists who participated in the survey. You made this, our 5th annual survey, the broadest yet.

As I share these initial results, it bears mention that our surveys are intended to be an informal check of the pulse of the art market for artists. The survey is not scientific – the survey group is voluntary, not randomized, and we’re not statisticians. I feel the data obtained gives a good general sense of the art market, and I hope the survey provides you a broad perspective of the market that you can compare to your own experience.

Please note that you can click on any of the graphs to display them at full size.


The breakdown of where participants live gives you an idea of the broad base of responses you will see in the results below. While we have artists participating from around the globe, a majority of the artists reside in North America (86%), and most of those live in the US (78.9%)



This year, for the first time, we also asked about the gender of participants. Over 2/3 of the respondents were female, and about 1/4 male (the balance didn’t respond to the request for gender)


41% of respondents listed art as their full time profession.Professional_Engagement

When we compared sales against full-time engagement, however, we found that of those who were reporting full-time engagement, nearly 30% were reporting total sales below $5000 per year, and nearly 44% reported sales below $10,000.

This means that nearly half of those reporting art as their full time profession are aspirational in their careers – these artists are pursuing their art full time, but are not generating sales sufficient to sustain a successful art business.

Annual Sales for Full Time Artists
Gross annual sales for artists reporting art as their full time profession

This year we also asked respondents about the size of the city in which they live.  You can see that we received responses pretty evenly dispersed between those living in small, rural communities and moderate-sized towns, and those living in metropolitan areas.

Community Size

We also asked about primary medium.  29% of respondents are oil painters, 25% acrylic painters, 8% watercolorists, 6% mixed media, 5% photographers and the remainder were scattered across a variety of media.


Primary Medium

Primary Medium Num

Subject Matter

Subject Matter Num


Sales and Outlook

One of the most interesting aspects of this survey is the sense we get of the health of the art market. When I’m talking to artists I always get a sense that there is a lot of unease about the economy and about art sales in general.

The numbers tell me that there is a lot to be positive about in the market. As for the last several years, participants in this year’s survey report their year-over-year sales up. This year 55% are reporting an increase in sales, a slight increase from 2015.

Year Over Year

47% of respondents feel that the health of the art market is improving.

Health of the Art Market

Always interesting to me is that while almost half feel the market is improving, when asked to predict their sales outlook for 2016, 76% of respondents felt that their own sales would increase in 2016.

Outlook for Sales

Sales and Income

Over 50% of respondents recorded total sales of less than $5,000 in 2015.

Gross Sales

When looking across all of these respondents, we see that 43% are generating all of their sales through direct sales, with another 25% reporting that most of their sales were direct, while some came through galleries. That means that 68% of our respondents report that all or most of their sales were made directly to collectors.

direct vs galleries
Direct Sales Vs. Gallery Sales – all respondents
When we filter for those artists generating more than $10,000 in annual sales, the numbers shift a little. In this group, 24% report all sales were direct, and 33% report that more sales came from direct sales than through galleries.

direct vs galleries 10000
Direct Sales Vs. Gallery Sales – respondents reporting $10,000+ in annual sales

As you move up the sales scale, galleries play a more important role. 55% of artists who are selling more than $100,000 worth of art report that at least as much of their sales are coming through galleries as through direct sales, with 40% reporting more of their income coming through galleries than direct sales.

While, as a gallery owner, it’s in my best interest that galleries sell as much as possible, I find it telling that so many artists are reporting a combination of direct sales and gallery sale, or direct sales alone as being such an important part of their sales efforts.  Never, it seems, has it been so important for an artist to develop strong sales skills.

Direct vs galleries 100000

We’ll have more analysis of these high-sales-producing artist in upcoming posts.

Other Results from All Respondents


The chart above can be a little bit confusing. This graph breaks down the degree to which respondents are using various sales channels. The percentages you are seeing tell you the degree to which each channel was used.

If, for example, you look at the first column, “Galleries,” you can see that 29% report that galleries generated 0% of their sales, 16% report that galleries produce 10% of their sales, and so on.



yoy production

We’ll look at how production impacts sales in an upcoming post.

commission vs spec



Gallery Representation

Gallery Representation

Creative vs Marketing Time

studio time

volunteer time

In Upcoming Posts

This gives you a broad overview of responses to this year’s survey. In upcoming posts I’ll dive deeper into the numbers. We’ll look at the impact gender has on sales, whether living in a big city has an advantage over living in a small city for artists, and what media are selling the most. Stay tuned for this information and more!

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