Art Investment: The Best and Worst Selling Subjects Revealed

Art Investment: The Best and Worst Selling Subjects Revealed

One of the most important factors that people should consider when investing in art is the effect that the subject of an artwork can have on its desirability and value. When looking at artworks to purchase as an investment it is very easy to give in to personal taste and preference instead of focusing on buying an artwork that will attract the largest number of potential buyers. Although you may like the subject of a particular artwork, your tastes and preferences may be in the minority so it is important that you are aware of which subjects are more popular and which are less popular before you make a purchase.

picture-frame.jpgAs a general rule artworks that contain sexually explicit nudity or graphic violence are out for obvious reasons. Portraits are also out for the simple reason that not many people would want to hang a painting of some random person in their house unless the artwork was painted by a very famous artist or the portrait was of a famous person. Another potential turn off for potential buyers is artworks that contain overtly political, cultural or religious statements which may cause offence to certain groups of people. I would also recommend that you stay away from any subject that is overly obscure or bizarre as common sense would suggest that the market for such a subject would be very narrow.

The Fine Art Trade Guild conducted a survey in the UK through its magazine Art Business Today (http://www.fineart.co.uk/abt_about.asp) to determine the best selling (primary market) subjects for paintings in the UK. According to the survey the top ten best selling subjects for paintings in the UK are:

1. Traditional landscapes.
2. Local views.
3. Modern or semi-abstract landscapes.
4. Abstracts.
5. Dogs.
6. Figure studies (excluding nudes).
7. Seascapes, harbour, and beach scenes.
8. Wildlife.
9. Impressionistic landscapes.
10. Nudes.

One particularly important point to keep in mind is that most artists are know for producing artwork of a particular subject so I would recommend that you stick to investing in artworks that depict the subject that the artist is best know as this should increase your chances of selling the work at a higher price.

Nick**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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12 Responses

  1. This comes accross as narrow minded and nieve to me. The first rule of collecting art is “Collect what you like.” excluding the works you mentioned is too safe. You want pieces that will someday be sugnificant. They need to have all the things you exculded.
    -Ty A. Kelly
    p.s. sorry for the misspellings.

  2. Dear Ty,
    Thank-you for your comment, I appreciate you taking the time to express your views. I totally agree that you want to invest in pieces that will be significant someday but when purchasing art for investment it is important to minimise the risk and maximise the profit potential which requires that one be particularly analytical and approach the market as a financially focused investor as opposed to an art collector. Unfortunately buying what you like is not a good approach to art investment although I wish it was!!!

  3. “5. Dogs.”

    Elicited a LOL.

  4. I have a 1st run art collection (15plus) by Wedliddi Speck, and wish to dispose of it, it was bought as an investment (1992), but as yet I don’t know if Speck produced another run of Indian Art, which my purchase enabled him to do, I am unable to get any info re this artist, can you help?

  5. However, a caviat to Traditional Landscapes is that those with cows or pastoral scenes are tough sells. Even one cow causes trouble!

  6. What about something Post-modern like the anime statue of Takashi Mirakami’s 1998, “My Lonesome Cowboy.” It’s a statue of an anime figure ejaculating a huge rope of semen over his head like a lasso… Do you think that this would be a good investment?

  7. interesting how 7 of the 10 relate to, or will undoubtedly have, landscape elements.

  8. I doubt this list is accurate. I really can’t believe that nudes sell more than still life. Dogs yes, nudes no. LOL

  9. One of the most important factors that people should consider when investing in art is the effect that the subject of an artwork can have on its desirability and value. When looking at artworks to purchase as an investment it is very easy to give in to personal taste and preference instead of focusing on buying an artwork that will attract the largest number of potential buyers. Although you may like the subject of a particular artwork, your tastes and preferences may be in the minority so it is important that you are aware of which subjects are more popular and which are less popular before you make a purchase.

    Nick, you are all about marketing, not art, leave it to the big boys like Chaz.

  10. I have been creating mixed media on canvas for a few years now. A couple of weeks ago I submitted a body of colourful mixed media work on canvas to a gallery for consideration for a group exhibition, but I wasn’t successful as they said that my work was very colourful and not what they are looking for. I love creating mixed media, my work is based on emotions, feelings, people etc. so I also include some text here and there. I would appreciate your opinion as far as me submitting my work to Australia galleries, do you think mixed media is popular with galleries or should I focus on abstract with a little mixed media through it.
    Look forward to your reply as it will help me to have this feedback!
    Regards,
    Liza

  11. I’m an artist and have sold bits and bobs from each of these categories over the years and no matter how it sells, I paint what like and people buy what they like. Cosmic rather than market forces reward me with a sale, although pricing and advertising increase than level of luck.
    Ty is spot on ‘collect what you LIKE’

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