Several weeks ago we launched our first State of the Art Survey. My intention with the survey was to get a sense of what the art market in general is looking like from the perspective of the individual fine artist. The survey is somewhat informal, and certainly not scientific, but I think it teases out some interesting perceptions of the market, as well as sales trends. Keep in mind that these figures were self-reported and anonymous, so you can take them with a grain of salt or two.
Let’s begin looking at the numbers by discussing participation. Over the 10 days the survey was live online we had a total of 1,247 participants. The majority of the respondents were from the United States, although we did get some international artists as well. Participation was pretty evenly divided by region of the country:
|Mountain States U.S.||161|
|East Coast U.S.||249|
|Southern States U.S.||201|
|New England U.S.||56|
Participation skewed heavily toward painters; over 64% of participants listed painting as their primary medium. While it would be easy to speculate that this reflects generally the distribution of artists in the market by medium, it may simply be that my sample group leans more heavily to the painters than other media. You’ll also notice that the second highest medium is “other”. The “other” artists listed everything from encaustic, printmaking, wood carving, textiles to basket weaving. Several of these media would have nearly gotten to 1% in their own right –certainly something to consider for future surveys.
|Fine Art Jewelry||20|
I was pleased and somewhat surprised to see how many of our respondents are seriously engaged in selling their art. Nearly half of the respondents declared art as their primary profession, and just as many said that they were at least engaged at a part-time level even if art sales were not a primary source of income. 10% listed art as a hobby more than a profession.
|I am a full time professional artist (Almost all of my income comes from sales of my art)||562|
|I devote part of my time to my art, but have another job/career to help make ends meet||561|
|Art is a hobby more than a profession||124|
Professional engagement in art sales is fleshed out a little better if we look at annual sales, where we’ll see that even though 45% of respondents listed art as part-time, they are selling at levels that would be more indicative of desire to pursue sales than actual sales success.
Over 83% of respondents are selling less than $25,000 worth of art per year, leaving 202 respondents who are selling above that level. I am going to focus on some of the things these artists are doing and see if we can create some correlation between activity and higher levels of sales, but again these conclusions aren’t going to be scientific since we are dealing with a pretty small sample.
Perhaps one of the most interesting results of the survey was the perception of the state of the art market. It should come as no surprise that there remains some general pessimism about the market. As the economy continues to stutter there is a sense that things are still rough out there.
In spite of this, 66% reported that sales held steady or increased from 2010-2011.
When asked about the health of the art market, 43% felt that the market was holding steady, 24% felt the market is improving, and 33% felt that the market is getting worse.
Again, this comes as no real surprise given the economic environment. It’s very interesting, however, what happens when you ask about the artist’s personal outlook for 2012 sales. The pessimism suddenly disappears as a solid majority of respondents (65%) feel that their personal sales will increase in 2012, 26% felt their sales would be about the same for 2012, while only 9% expect to see a decline in sales. This is a pretty dramatic shift in attitude, and I hope it gives a truer picture of the state of the market – if a majority of artists do indeed see an increase in sales I would take that as a indication that the art market is in real recovery.
This could just be personal optimism, but, in my experience, artists tend to be anything but overly optimistic!
The State of the Art Survey shows a large number of artists hard at work. When asked about productivity, 40% reported producing more art in 2011 than 2010, while 37% produced about the same and 23% produced less art. And how much art were they producing? A lot!
Now let’s look at what happens when we filter production by sales – the question being, do higher sales relate directly to higher production? For artists selling more than $25,000 worth of art, the chart looks more like this:
You can get a sense that there is a higher level of productivity looking at it this way, but it’s perhaps easier if you look at average production comparing the general group versus the $25,000+ group. The math that gets me here involves some voodoo, but I am not too far off to say that, on average, when we look at all of the respondents to the survey we see that they are producing 56 original pieces per year, but if we look at the $25,000 + subset we see they are producing 109 pieces per year. That’s almost twice the productivity as the group as a whole and I suspect the numbers would be even more dramatic if we compared the $25,000 + group to the $25,000 – group.
Again, this perhaps comes as no surprise in general, but it’s good to get an exact idea of the importance of productivity in driving sales.
I have only begun to parse the data and will be back over the coming weeks to look at additional results from the survey – in particular we asked about marketing efforts and gallery relationships and I will have posts on each of those topics.
Would you like to analyze the data yourself? You can download the raw data to see the results:
If you do analyze the results, please share your findings by emailing me at jason[at]xanadugallery.com.
Have questions or comments about the results? Please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks to everyone for participating!
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.