A Look at Artists Who are Selling Well | Xanadu Gallery’s 2014 State of the Art Survey

Today we look at artists who are reporting strong sales for their work over the last year to see what they are doing to generate those sales and their attitudes about the market.

The first thing we learn about $50k+ artists is that they are overwhelmingly full-time artists – 91% report that art is their full time occupation. This should come as no surprise. Constant, consistent hard work is required to generate strong sales.



We will look more closely at regional differences in a future post, but it is worth noting that we had artists from around the country reporting good sales. The percentage of artists reporting good sales compared to the total number of artists roughly matched the distribution of artists participating in the survey. Residence

Primary Medium

The same cannot be said about medium. There were a number of media that were under-represented in our results for high-selling artists. Most notabley, perhaps, is the lack of representation of watercolorists and pastelists in the $50K+ cohort. Watercolorists represented 6% of total respondents to the survey, pastelists 4%, but there were no watercolorists or pastelists reporting more than $50,000 in sales.

It’s important to note that with a sampling the size we have, this may simply be a statistical aberration. My interaction with watercolorists and pastelists, however, leads me to believe that it is more difficult to generate strong sales in these media than in oil, acrylic or sculpture.

If you’re an artist working in watercolor or pastel and have feedback on this chart or sales experience that contradicts these findings, please leave a comment below.

Medium MediumStats

Gallery Sales

Another very interesting result of the survey, and an indication of the extent to which an artist must now promote their own work,  60% of artists reporting $50k+ sales indicate that more of their sales came from direct-to-customer sales than through gallery sales.



Though gallery sales were a smaller part of the sales mix than expected, a majority of artists generating more the $50,000 in sales reported that they were showing their work in galleries as part of their sales efforts.


Sales and Perception of the Art Market

In a hopeful sign for the art market, 67% report that their sales were up in 2013 compared to 2012. Their outlook for the coming year is optimistic as well.



65% report that they produced more than 40 original works in 2013 – echoing the full-time engagement shown in question 1.

ProductionCommissioned Work vs Work done on Spec

In my conversations with artists leading up to the launch of the survey, one of the more common requests was that I ask how much of sold work was commissioned by buyers versus created on speculation. The sense that I get is some artists suspect that many of art sales are of works commissioned by buyers. I didn’t find this to be the case for artists selling $50k+.

77% reported less than 25% of their sales were commissioned works, with a full 36% stating that none of their work was created on commission. Only 10% of respondents reported that a majority of their sales came from commissions.

CommissionVSspecInvestment in Advertising

85% of these artists reported some investment in advertising during 2013. 25% reported spending over $2500 in advertising during the year.

AdvertisingBusiness vs Studio Time

Another common request I received prior to the survey was to ask about creative versus business time. For high-selling artists, a good amount of time is spent on the business/marketing/selling side of the endeavor. 46% report spending 25% of their time on the business, and 40% report spending at least 50% of their time in the business end of things.

TimeManagementWhat are Your Thoughts on These Findings?

Do you find any surprises in our results from $50k + artists? Is there anything in particular that you would like us to further investigate in the results? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Other Survey-Related Posts

Initial Results – Participation

Artist Optimism about the Art Market Increases

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