More Results from Xanadu Gallery’s 2016 State of the Art Survey | Successful Artist Stats

Yesterday we looked at results from across the spectrum of respondents to this year’s State of the Art Survey from Xanadu Gallery. Today I want to take a look at results from artists who report strong sales of their work. I’m going to break these professional artists into two groups: those selling between $25,000 – $99,999, and those selling more than $100,000 worth of art.

Because I’m going to be comparing the sales of each group side by side and referring back and forth regularly, for brevity I’m going to call our $25,000-$99,999 artists our “25-99K Artists” and those generating $100,000 or more in sales our “100 K+ Artists”.

It’s important to note that the sample size becomes much smaller when I filter the survey results down to these groups. The results you see below will be more akin to anecdotal information than scientific averages. Still, we’ll see some interesting patterns emerge as we look at these results, especially as we compare them to the general averages. My hope is that seeing what successful artists are doing will give you insights into aspects of your own art business that you may improve.

Note: Click on charts to see them at full size.

Gender

First, we’re going to see that the perception that there is a glass ceiling in the art world for women artists is borne out in our results.  While only 25% of respondents to the survey were male, men make up 31% of 25-99K Artists, and a full 50% of 100 K+ Artists. This means that if we had an equal number of male respondents, the sales numbers would have skewed even more heavily toward male artists.

I like to think that gender bias is decreasing in the art market, but both experience and our survey show that it is still a very real factor.

Gender

25-99K Artists

 

Gender100

100 K+ Artists

 

Professional Engagement

Unsurprisingly, artists generating high levels of sales are very engaged in their artistic careers. 84% of the 25-99K Artists, and 100% of the 100 K+ Artists are pursuing their art full time.

 

Engagement

25-99K Artists

 

Engagement100

100 K+ Artists

 

Residence

High sales artists come from around the country. We have to take the residency figures for the 100 K+ Artists with a real grain of salt since we’re only looking at 20 responses. I would invite you to note that there are artists from every region of the country – it’s possible to succeed no matter where you live!

That said, it should be noted that we’re not asking about where the artists sell their work, and it’s likely that these artists are selling their work in markets with higher populations and in art destination areas.

Residence

25-99K Artists

 

Residence100

100 K+ Artists

 

We also see that our high selling artists live in both high and low population density areas

Population

25-99K Artists

 

Population100

100 K+ Artists

 

Medium

When it comes to medium, we also see a wide range of responses. Oil and acrylic comprise the medium of choice for a  majority of our 25-99K Artists, as well as our 100 K+ Artists, but, again, it’s worth noting that successful artists work in diverse media. Among our 100 K+ Artists, a full 25% listed their media as “other”. When I looked at individual responses in the “other” category, all of the artists indicated that they were sculptors, either in metal, or wood. This means that, including bronze artists, sculptors made up a full 30% of our 100 K+ Artists.

 

Medium

25-99K Artists

 

Medium100

100 K+ Artists

 

Subject Matter

Again, the numbers around subject matter should be viewed in light of the small sample size, especially for the 100 K+ Artists. I would caution against radical changes in subject matter based solely on the numbers that you see here.

subject

SubjectNum

25-99K Artists

Subject100

100 K+ Artists

 

Style

Same caution as above with subject matter – don’t try to read too much into the distribution of styles.

Style

styleNum

25-99K Artists

 

Style100

StyleNum100

100 K+ Artists

 

Direct Vs. Gallery Sales

I already touched on these figures in yesterday’s post, but you will see that the distribution of sales directly to customers vs. sales through galleries shifts toward galleries as total sales increase. Even so, a large number of high-sales artists are selling a lot of their work directly to buyers. This should make gallery owners nervous (and hopefully encourage them to work harder!) and it should encourage you to brush up on your sales skills.

GalleryVsDirect

GalleryVsDirectNum

25-99K Artists

 

directVSgalleries100

100 K+ Artists

 

How Many Galleries

25-99K Artists

 

galleries100

100 K+ Artists

 

 

SalesChannels

25-99K Artists

 

SalesChannels100

100 K+ Artists

 

 

Year over Year Sales

Both groups of artists report an increase in sales in 2015 over 2014, with 93% of 100 K+ Artists reporting an increase.

15Vs14

25-99K Artists

 

15vs14-100K

100 K+ Artists

 

Production

Compared to the rest of the responses to our survey, we find that high-sales artists are producing more work. Again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s important to note too that we’re not breaking out production by medium, so you are seeing production numbers for sculptors (likely on the lower end of the production spectrum), painters, and glass artists (higher end of the production spectrum).

Production

 

ProductionNum

25-99K Artists

 

 

Production100

ProductionNum100

100 K+ Artists

 

Work on Spec Vs. Commissioned Work

SaleVsCommission

25-99K Artists

 

 

SaleVsCommission100

100 K+ Artists

 

Originals Vs. Reproductions

OriginalsVsRepro

25-99K Artists

 

 

OriginalsVsRepro100

100 K+ Artists

 

Advertising

Ads

25-99K Artists

 

ads100

100 K+ Artists

 

What will your marketing efforts for 2016 include?

Marketing Efforts

25-99K Artists

 

Marketing Efforts100

100 K+ Artists

 

Health of the Art Market and Outlook for Sales

Health

25-99K Artists

 

 

Health100

100 K+ Artists

 

OutlookSales

25-99K Artists

 

OutlookSales100

100 K+ Artists

 

Creative Vs Marketing Time

Interestingly, when we look at how much time is being spent on marketing, the total marketing vs creative time rises for our 25-99K Artists, but then falls for our 100 K+ Artists. Is this because the most successful artists have someone helping them with the marketing? We’ll have to ask in our next survey.

CreatingVsMarketing

25-99K Artists

 

2016-02-03 14_26_03-Zoho Survey

100 K+ Artists

 

Volunteering

As we look at our high-selling artists we see that they are volunteering in art organizations less than other artists. I suspect this is a function of the focus these artists have on building their businesses and sales. 100 K+ Artists are volunteering more than 25-99K Artists.

Volunteering

25-99K Artists

 

Volunteering100

100 K+ Artists

 

What do you Think of the Results?

Share your reaction and thoughts about the State of the Art Survey results in the comments below. Stay tuned for more results!

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 the Art Business Academy. 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.

24 Comments

  1. I find it mind blowing that there are so many people making a living at selling art. I know there are lots making ends meet by teaching ect. . Congrats to all those who are persisting at this passionate craft. Carol F.

  2. I have several questions and a couple of comments:

    How can “abstract” be both a style and a category of content? Please explain how you intended these two uses of the term.

    Second, for those artists producing larger numbers of work, are these works smaller, on average? You did not ask about size, density of detail, time to finish a piece, etc.

    You did not ask about artists’ training: self-taught, BFA, MFA, other? Why not?

    It would be interesting to know what changes, if any, artists made in response to these data: what changes were made in 2015 based on 2014 data, and what changes are being made in 2016 base on 2015 data.

    Finally, to me it is absolutely critical to be true to myself as an artist, however trite that sounds. How do artists feel about the value of these data in the context of their best practice? Are they making any changes?

  3. Great survey
    Thanks for all this information, it shows me a growing and blooming art world. My art is still not near the the prices of the artists participating in the survey, but feel now like I have a bit of inside information that I can use. Even if it’s just a mental conformation that I ‘m on the right path.
    Never seen anything like this, bravo!

    Jora Nelstein

  4. An amazing amount of information here, Jason. I am not aware of another source of info like this…it’s very interesting…and I am really grateful for all of your work!! Thank you!!

  5. Jason, you’ve tried to compile an informational guide from this survey but there are so many variables within the questions it is difficult to arrive at conclusions.
    One, the perception that artists who spend more time on their work, hence, they will earn more. Reading this survey one would be tempted to store the paint brushes and become a sculptor.
    Place that beside other mediums who may invest triple the studio time but the rewards might be less. The comparisons are too disproportionate to be valid for all mediums. Maybe a condensed survey specific to medium?
    I still take issue with the “professional engagement as an artist.” The question has little to do with commitment. Regardless of other income (not another job) more of my work sold than your survey artists whose income was almost all from art. The “professional criteria” noted might need to be adjusted on the next survey.
    Sales from gallery representation or direct sales was really interesting, especially at both income levels. I’ve found that true as well.

    1. I agree about the so called professional bias. CI think the next step would be a guide highlighting the key findings, plus some suggested actions to appeal to a wide range of artists at different stages of their business,including direct sales options rather than just galleries. It seems to me that the biggest gap for artists are sales and marketing skills, in addition to business skills. Also we need to stop calling it an “art career.” It’s really an enterprise/Business and we are entrepreneurs.

  6. Jason, Thank you for taking the time to get this survey to the artist and evaluate it. From talking to fellow photographers, I felt that most of them were making $75,000 – $100,000 and that it was only me that was making well below that. This survey restored my confidence some what.

  7. Once again I learned a lot from these results and it gives me some insight into things I can focus on through the year. Great work. Thanks for doing this.

  8. Awesome analysis. Thank you Jason!!! I have one suggestion for next year . . . since $25k is the poverty line for a family of 4, and we don’t want to be starving artists, perhaps the cut of the data could be $50-99k (instead of $25-99k). Thank you again! This is really a huge service to the art community.

    1. Thanks Holly – it’s even a bit more complicated than that when you consider that if these artists are showing in galleries they are paying a 40-50% commission on those sales. Still, looking over the data, $25,000+ in sales puts these artists in the 10th percentile of respondents, so it’s still something to aim for if your sales aren’t there yet.

  9. Thanks Jason! I’m happy to see that my production level is right in the mix of these artists, even though I have a full time job and a growing family! I believe my quality is up there now as well, so now it’s time to focus more on sales. I have been focused on production so I can start getting into galleries. After seeing these results it makes me wonder if I should focus more on direct sales first and galleries second.

  10. I found it interesting the percentages of high end artists working 100% of there time creating and no time spent managing their business and marketing or 75/25 split on creating/ management and marketing. Perhaps it is because they can afford to pay someone to market and pay for a space that helps them be efficent. Perhaps it’s because they have an incredible email list full of collectors. The majority also only spent up to $500 on advertisement and was represented in only 3 galleries. This has answered my question about how much time I should be spending marketing, seeking gallery representation and on advertisement as well as how many pieces of art I should be creating. The collectors are coming in for me – a slow build up.
    A question for you, Jason: What do you think about the old adage “90% marketing 10% talent” ? It would seem, from these results, that it is not true.
    It would be interesting to know how many of these guys/gals have an agent.

  11. Thank you, Jason, as always, you come up with very interesting material.
    I have two comments today:
    There are, as you said, many variables, and not only about time spent producing and marketing one’s art, dedication, advertising and media savviness. I feel that social connectedness has a lot to do. It makes a difference, if you or someone in your family is socially or professionally well connected in money circles. Many collectors have no taste of their own, they buy because so and so has bought work from x or y, because x and y are being talked about. Or, because a good gallery sales person has convinced them. I see it happening all the time. The best sellers are not necessarily the best artists.

    My other comment has to do with the gender gap in sales. I am convinced, that it has nothing to do with what either gender is capable of or who is the better salesperson. Rather than that, I think women, at least those who have families, are confrontd with having to juggle many more tasks in the course of an ordinary day than men; women do not have the luxury of being only artists.

  12. Thanks for your surveys Jason. I’m wondering… We’re there any of the $100K+ artists who did NOT work with galleries at all? It seems as though an artist’s has a better chance of getting higher prices for their work if they have gallery representation.

  13. Hi, Jason.
    Thank you for this information. It is helping me look at how I think about parts of my business, how I do things, and do some planning for the upcoming year. A bit of feedback: I don’t understand what the colors mean on the Originals vs. Reproductions graph, so am not sure how to interpret it. After two years on your mailing list, I am still learning new things from you, which doesn’t always happen. Great job!

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