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.

Participation

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%)

Residence

ResidenceNum

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)

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

Style

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

SalesChannels

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.

Production

Production

yoy production

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

commission vs spec

Advertising

advertising

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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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

41 Comments

  1. Thank you Jason for doing this research. I wonder if there is additional reporting possible about income/city size/medium that might show insights into success at revenue? The gallery representation is a clear link to greater income for me, it is the traditional channel. With the rise of social media, I have wondered what direct sales look like, your survey is showing some signs of a possible shift there, worth watching year over year.

    1. Jan, to address your question from my personal experience, I live in a smallish rural town of 20,000 (county 10,000 + town 10,000). Most of my sales are through galleries, rather than direct sales. But it is a high end tourist town and there are many galleries here. People do come here especially to buy artwork, so my statistic of “small, rural” might skew the final statistic.

  2. As an artist with an engineering background I love this stuff. I find it all so very interesting. You did a great job. I look forward to more analysis in your future posts.

    Also it gives me some insight into things I have to be doing if I am going to be more successful.

  3. I greatly appreciate reading the results of the 2016 State of the Art Survey.
    Thank you for gathering the facts and figures and for structuring meaningful questions.
    The results of many of the questions tells me I’m right in there with most….gives me some energy to keep going!
    Thanks again,

  4. Mind blowing in many respects. Can’t wait to see the rest of the stats. Whenever I read things like this I can see I’m doing well in many areas and it’s also a great reminder of things I could do better. I’m very happy with my progress as an artist in 2015 with on the whole less work to create more money and less wasted time. I’m also pleased that my commission rate is rising and I am making more money through my physical outlets where other people are taking on the task of marketing. Thank you Jason for everything you do to support the artistic world.

  5. I am a textile artist, member of Studio Art Quilts Association. They do a great job of getting work out into public view, with publications and challenges where smaller traveling shows are curated and placed in galleries. That partnership has been helpful to me. Are there similar organizations in other disciplines? What relevance do they have to the gallery world?

  6. Wow, it is awesome to see that in chart form. It helps me to know where I stand In comparison with others. I have really started getting out in shows, events, etc. I hope to be in your gallery one day. I just keep learning (a lot from you, thank you), taking lessons, striving to hit my goals and making a commitment to my art.

  7. Lots of interesting things to think about after looking over these charts.

    I would be curious to know if the amount of money spent on advertising caused an increase in sales. I’ve been trying out FB ads but I often wonder…is it worth it.

    Also, I wonder about why so many women responded to the survey. Are woman more likely to share thier info or are they spending more time than men researching ways to promote themselves….that lead to taking the survey.

    Thanks for sharing all the info you gathered.

  8. Thank you Jason for your time and effort that goes into this!
    One thing that really surprises me is the amount of low production. I’m always hearing people say I can’t produce much because I’m not a full time artist. I feel good that I’m at the higher scale of this survey and I’m not slowing down! I’m also shocked of the low $ sales from those who call themselves full time artists. Your not full time unless you make at least $20k a year, I don’t know many people that can live on less than that!

  9. This is great information and very encouraging. I have been trying to build an art career while working full-time and it hasn’t been easy. My current plan is to go for it at the end of this year. While I recognize that this is not a scientific survey, I can see that there is reason to expect that if I do the work, the out put is quality, and I devote time and effort to marketing and selling I may actually make a living. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me.
    Thank you!!

  10. Jason,

    As someone who looks at the total outdoor ‘art show’ circuit, the huge demographic you missed were the non-fine art jewelers. They comprise a huge portion of the outdoor and non-gallery indoor art show participants. They also generate a huge amount of revenue not reflected anywhere in your stats. 10-20% of participants in most events I do in the art show circuit are costume jewelers or fine art jewelers working mostly in non precious stones and base metals, Any precious metal work is predominantly silver and some semi-precious stones are used.
    These artists/artisans knock down a substantial amount of the potential revenue available at a given event. If you put this survey up on art fair insiders.com, your results might change considerably.

    Items which women can wear constitute 30-@45% of the exhibitors at many of these events – including many of the higher end cost to exhibit events. Talk to Connie Mettler and consider getting another chunk of data to play with from AFI. Women’s wearables are a huge category as they are usually single person decision impulse buys up to 50$ and even beyond that they are still single person selections with the second person keeping the wife happy. The is in vast contrast to fine art gallery sales which are usually two person decisions.
    Did you ask how many respondents were self-taught versus art/craft institution trained?

    1. Thanks Mark, I appreciate the input. I appreciate the work of fine art jewelers and don’t mean to leave them out – the challenge is that the logistics and the production volume of jewelers is so fundamentally different from other media that I didn’t think I could make them fit into this survey easily. There are a number of media that I had to leave out of the survey for similar reasons. It’s also a reflection of the readership of the blog.

  11. Thanks a ton Jason and crew! Very interesting and concise. As a watercolorist I find it interesting that such a small percentage of artists use it as a primary media. Have you found watercolors more difficult to sell than oils or acrylics?

  12. Thank you Jason. Super helpful. I wonder if you would take a cut at the data based exclusively on the responses of those reporting $50K or more in annual sales. It could provide an interesting view into the traits of those who have at least a shred of a chance at making a living at this.

  13. Jason,
    The best thing I ever did for my career as an artist was to buy your books and read the material you continue to generate. This survey is one more example of terrific help to us artists. One of these days we will be more successful and will have you to thank!

  14. Jason – what helpful information. Like others responding here, it’s helpful to see where I fall within the responses – where I’m doing well and where I can improve. However, what I was really surprised about was that over 50% of respondents stated that they do not volunteer for an art-related organization. Who better to help lead the charge about the importance of having art in the world than an artist? Who better to work with an arts council, or other organization, that offers kid’s educational programs, especially when so many schools don’t even offer art anymore? I’d be interested in knowing why artists aren’t interested in volunteering to help arts organizations.

  15. Thanks Jason! Love following these interesting posts! I look forward to the post about artists who are selling more. I will be interesting to see how many artworks they produce, how much they spend on marketing and if they sell more through galleries. Will keep a lookout!

  16. Thank you Jason, So very interesting to read your findings. I realized after I submitted that I listed my net income and did not tally the gallery take for my artwork. My apologies. On the subject of volunteering, I have volunteered many hours to the arts over the years but find it harder to do now that art creation is my priority and commissions are coming in on a regular basis. There are only so many hours in the day! I am sure other artists must find this as well. What I do find helpful is to be in an art critique group once per month with a very talented group of artists. Its so important to get honest feedback from others that understand the process, composition and application.
    Thank you again Jason!

  17. Wow Thank you so much Jason, what a gift you are to the arts community at large… Every now and then someone comes along who understands the true nature of Sharing information and may I say you do it with such eloquence and generosity, we the artists are very fortunate to have your insights and expertise at our fingertips.
    Great to see numbers and charts that track in real time a portion, however small of the art world. It’s scary, encouraging and can help shed light on many aspects of the artist life. Looking forward to further gleamed insights… Oh ya did I say THANK YOU…

  18. Jason, I really appreciate this as I have looked on the internet and not found much else that shows what your survey shows. What I also wish was here is more about the growth of sales on the internet, sales through art fairs, and finally something about the success and income of artists at different ages of their career. Responding to the comment above about the larger proportion of women than men responding to this survey it is apparently a well known phenomena in the survey community that with regard to respondents women always outnumber men.

  19. Thanks for the feedback Jason. Overall view, has been useful and interesting, eventhough income/sales related figures do not apply to me, since in South America prices are so much lower than in the US or Europe. However, i so good to see we are all focusing on selling and producing more art durong 2016, of course, we are all in pretty much the same boat! I wish the very best for my fellow artists and for Xanadú.

  20. Thanks for the initial breakdown on the 2016 survey, Jason. Very interesting information to digest.

    One question that I am realizing now that should have been added to the survey, would have been a price range question for artwork and/or commissions. Emerging artists may be only charging $500 for their work so making $10,000 a year would require selling twenty artworks directly to consumers (or having to sell 40 artworks through a gallery). I am guessing that the artists with $50,000 and greater sales numbers for the year sell their work in the $2,500 and higher price range.

    A second question to consider adding for next year’s survey could also be: “How many artworks did you sell?”

    Looking forward to the upcoming posts diving further into these results.

  21. Great, informative survey and of course, all us visual types love the colorful chart. It really helps! I can see I’m fairly average in most areas so it helps to reaffirm what I thought I knew. Again, another knock-out for Xanadu and Jason.

  22. Thank you, Jason, for your time and energy involved in this survey. I am currently just beginning my artistic journey into something more that just a hobby. This survey has given me a little more insight into the direction that would be the most beneficial. I have also recently purchased two of your books on the subject and so far find them very interesting, easy to understand, motivational, and a pleasure to read your witty commentaries. Thank you for all that you do for the art community.

  23. Jason,

    Happy New Year, and thanks for researching and reporting the results of “Xanadu Gallery’s 2016 State of the Art Survey”.

    The graphs are very helpful, AND it’s encouraging to learn how other Artists are doing businesswise.

    Lee Pierce

    1. Good thought Martha, I would be interested in that as well. When I was a young artist, I was a lot more involved in groups and volunteering and now with maturity, I see that I can only do so much with my time. I also teach less and produce more pieces of quality work that is not as much inspired by the needs of students. I think I am now making more informed choices as to how to budget my time. I produce two to three finished works per week which is definitely more than when I
      was younger.

  24. This is great – and usable information, and could be the basis for seeing areas where I’m doing well and areas where I could do better. I was shocked to see the percentage of artists making under 10K (especially as FT artists) and the (much) lower numbers making the larger figure incomes from their art. I would be very interested to see if there is any correlation between the lack of actual marketing/advertising/[promotion done by artists and the low sales as well as a correlation between time spent doing business vs time spent creating art. Very informative survey – thank you.

  25. Jason, thank you for this study. It helps to know we are not alone, but I do wonder why there are such few watercolorists. I love this medium, but I wonder if it is harder to sell.
    Frances Hairston

    1. Keep in mind that we didn’t randomly select our artists from among all artists – participants were volunteers from the blog, and therefore self-selected. It’s possible that we simply have fewer watercolorists reading the blog than other media.

  26. Hi Jason – “[F]rom the blog” meaning that the survey is limited to artists whose email you have because they are followers of this blog, I presume? I would think this fact should have been clarified at the outset of the article, i.e., that it is a survey of blog members. That is more critical than the fact that respondents were “self-selected.” Even so-called randomized surveys still have plenty of people who say no to taking the survey, so there is always some degree of self-selection. It is unavoidable so long as we live in a society that protects our right to say no to surveyors, although if the oligarchs had their way, I suspect they’d outlaw that! 😉 Anyway, as Mark Twain said in re: statistics … fact of the matter is I found this information very useful. Thanks for taking the time to gather the data and present it in a comprehensive and comprehensible manner.

  27. “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.”

    In the above, using the percents reported, I believe that you meant 35% “reporting more of their income coming through galleries than direct sales.”

  28. Did you run a correlation analysis between amount of gross annual sales and how much time spent marketing versus creating? I would guess that those who spend all of their time (12%) creating are either making the lowest amounts and simply don’t care (hobbyists, or semi-serious pros) mixed with those making the most (the ones who’ve made it big time and can leave the marketing to others). The ones making moderate amounts of money would fall somewhere in the 25% to 75% range of their time spent marketing, although it is conceivable that some of those in this range excel at marketing and simply prefer to avoid commissions? I am basing this hypothesis on the idea that if you are “aspirational” you aren’t recognized by the market as collectible and therefore cannot sell much and have to spend more time marketing yourself.

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