Quick Poll: Artists and Galleries, Was 2016 a Good Year for Art Sales?

In spite of being an election year in the U.S., 2016 proved to be a record year for sales at Xanadu. With the economy steadily pulling itself up, and consumer sentiment on the rise, we’ve seen a steady increase in gallery traffic and sales. For us, this has been a trend that began in about 2011 and has steadily continued upwards.

I find several interesting factors in the sales trends. The first is that our sales increase has been broad-based. During the recession of the last decade, our sales to buyers in the middle of the market declined sharply. Upper-middle class buyers seemed to have been dramatically impacted by the economic downturn. We continued to sell high-priced items ($7,500+) to wealthy collectors, but there was a sharp decline for items at the lower-end of our spectrum.

Over the last couple of years, and especially last year, that market seems to be re-establishing itself strongly. We are now steadily selling art across the range of our price points. The volume in our lower- to mid-priced artwork now makes up the majority of our sales in terms of dollar-volume.

In my interactions with artists and other galleries, I hear mixed news. Some artists and galleries are reporting an increase in sales, while others report that the market remains soft. I suspect that some of this is dependant on style and subject matter, and some of it is related to regional economic factors.

Quick Survey

Which leads me to today’s quick survey. How were your sales in 2016? Please answer the anonymous survey question below, and then leave a comment below describing your experience in the art market and what you are observing in terms of sales.

Poll of Artists

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Poll of Galleries

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35 Comments

  1. I saw an increase in my gallery last year of about 20%. Interestingly enough, visits to the gallery were down about 10%, but our average sale increased. Having said that, 2017 is starting off way below 2016. I am getting the sense that there is a lot of uncertainty out there right now

  2. My sales were about the same in 16 as they were in 15 but I am more concerned about the galleries than I am about me. I am just one artist. But the galleries have many artists who profit from the sales and they keep their doors open every day. I know they are doing badly because most tell me how they are doing.

  3. My sales did better than double of 2015! But I still experienced gallery closings. A year ago, I had 6 galleries, now down to 2. Oddly enough two galleries that were selling my work are ones that closed–but, when I went to pick up my artwork they told me that I was the only artist whose work was selling but not enough to keep the doors open. Thanking God for good shows and internet sales!

  4. My sales increased surprisingly last year with more commissions and small galleries type sales. There isn’t a lot of promotion for artists in my area; it seems the artist has to be ever vigilant in maintaining a visual presence of their art and not rely on the arts organizations, galleries, etc.

    1. I see you are an abstract painter. I am also, do you find that their is enough volume for abstract art for sales to be good. I know it depends on area, but just curious.

  5. Much better sales in 2016 than previous years. We had more higher priced works sold, and fewer small impulse purchase items sold, the kind that would fit in a suitcase. So more higher end pieces sold meant much better commerce over all. I was really surprised since it was election year which is usually more difficult.

  6. I sold dozens of prints and cards of my Wrigley Field painting. Everything else was pretty flat including sales of original paintings. Thank you Cubs.

  7. I made a commitment to myself this past year to trim back the time spent in the studio building inventory to supply several galleries across the US and to concentrate instead on even better quality in production. To do this, I cut back my galleries from 4 to only 2 (one in the Southwest (Tucson, AZ) and one in the southeast (Asheville,NC) and created fewer paintings that had more involved and complex compositions. Not knowing how this cutback would effect my sales, I was pleasantly surprised to see my sales actually increase quite a bit this year from last.

  8. Here on the East Coast, many of my friends, myself included, have experienced a swift “off the cliff” sales effect. It continues in my case. I’m doing what I can, but sales have not come back up.

    1. Same here.Had a great year, best since 2008. This was because two big sales to one collector. After the election, though, business quickly wound down till flatlining in February.

  9. My total income was about the same, but I sold fewer and larger pieces at higher prices. That having been said, family commitments took up nearly 6 months of my year, so perhaps in relation to time spent I actually doubled my income.
    I’m constantly moving with the market and trying new things. If I had stayed with small size daily painting and not submitted for public work contracts 2016 would have been dismal. If the first two months of 2017 are anything to go by, I’m well ahead of last year so far. I also feel that without the pressure of daily painting, my work has massively improved which should herald a good year.

  10. Here in my part of Canada- SW Ontario, one of my Galleries closed but now I have work selling in a brand new one that is situated in a beautiful tourist town. They are doing well. My own art sales have been steadily increasing, with the majority of sales being commissions. Sales around this area have been steady for many artists, if they are good.

  11. My 2016 sales were amazing starting in October. Between October and the end of the year my sales were up 70%. Mostly due to getting my digital portfolio out there. I have a friend who is a metal sculptor and does the fair circuit in Florida every winter. This year was double what he made last year. Hope it keeps up this year

  12. although my sales were flat last year this year, partly because of a studio move to a less busy location… has started out like gangbusters this year super busy through summer with 3 big commissions one is for a new restaurant opening in town…..

  13. Though the number of paintings I sold was up the gross dollar volume was down a bit. Which means a few more paintings sold at the lower end than last year. Biggest volume is July through September, which is our high season. Most of my sales are through galleries, but direct sales increased a bit over the last year too.

  14. Definitely a better year. I quit depending on other people to sell my work and did my own marketing. Frustrated, I left three galleries in eighteen months … and am doing better because of it.
    I put myself “out there” more with regional home and garden shows, local venues, and high end markets. People may have thought they were getting better value buying directly from the artist and didn’t flinch at prices, I’m not sure. I’ve quietly developed my own list of patrons and kept them aware of current work.
    The big surprise was I got more commissions rather than direct sales of my inventory. They may not have wanted that particular landscape but they did want one of their own images/experiences. I’ve long understood I was displaying my style of painting rather than the work itself. But 2016 resulted in actual paid commissions more than it has in many years. I might add I made that process easy … I keep commission agreements on hand and don’t let that person leave until they make a commitment.

  15. My sales were up for 2016, mostly because I joined a gallery in a popular tourist area in town. The gallery not only showcased my work to tourists and increased my sales in general, but taught me what sells, how to display my work, and how to frame the work in a manner that enhances its best qualities. So, although it may or may have something to do with the economy as a whole, I feel that it had more to do with my positioning and education.

  16. 2016 was a record year for me also. Though I complain that I owe more than ever in taxes for 2016, I’m grateful to be able to make a living doing something that I love so much, I’d do it for free.

  17. In the summer my sales were excellent, but were poor in the last quarter. The gallery which carries my work in Hawsii reordered, marking a 16 year relationship. As always my batik paintings on rayon outsold my prints and paintings by a considerable margin.

  18. Sales were definitely up in 2016, especially pre-Christmas sales. Since the gallery that carried my work went out of business, I have relied on a combination of exhibits, open studio and good art markets – with lots of advertising on social media.

  19. I haven’t tabulated 2016, but since January 1st I’ve sold 38 paintings. I participated in a “30 paintings in 30 days” challenge in January, painting pet portraits. I sold 28 of the 30, and I’ve been busy with commissions ever since. I have raised my prices, and plan to do so again.
    I still need to get my website up and running, and I want to appproach some galleries this year, too.

  20. Sales for me were down in 2016 compared to the year before, but sales are up this year. I’ve sold more this year than in 2015, and it’s only March. I actually think it has more to do with effort and exposure than anything else, in this case.

  21. the local gallery in town is undergoing a major change. They are changing the number of artist, the layout of the art ( It isn’t so clutter anymore). The price ranges vary from out of state artist price of 24,000.00 to local artist price range from 300.00 to 890.00. I feel it will do better in 2017

  22. Sales were up for me 2016 mostly due to a solo gallery show in the summer where I sold 30 percent of my catalogue. 2017 off to a slow start with no exhibits this first quarter.

  23. Much better year, I had a solo show which certainly helped and the other gallery sales are coming in more regularly. I have had people approach me directly to purchase my work which is nice but I did not promote myself on-line much yet. I must get busy putting work on-line but I am having a hard time shuffling between what to put in shows and what to try to sell on-line. I am getting a bit exhausted trying to keep up with juried events and thinking of dropping some. Does anyone else out there have mixed opinions about juried and group shows?

  24. In 2016 my sales were much better than 2015 I believe because I am now represented by a vineyard that shows my work in a beautiful gallery environment. Also they gave me a “meet the artist brunch” and friends from my past came to see my work. Those friends have become my best collectors. Also, Family members came to the branch and I also bought two pieces. I was very encouraged.

  25. SInce I left full time teaching, 3 years ago, I have been focusing on my sculpture career ( while also working a few part time jobs for steady income). Each year my income from sculpture has increased, but not necessarily from sales. I also teach sculpture workshops, receive grants, and stipends for installing ork in outdoor public art shows. I was happy my income went up by 5000 this past year, but sales remained about the same.

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