Why doesn’t my art sell better?

Most of us ask ourselves this at one time or another if our intent (or part of it) is to create work that other people want to buy.

Of course, the art market has been affected drastically by the COVID-19 virus, and those artists who depend on gallery sales are hurting, as are their galleries. We hope for better times very soon.


photo by anggun tan

But selling art is always an interesting topic, and these days we have some extra time to speculate about why people buy art, what sells, and how we feel about it. (I’m not talking about the international art auctions where work goes for millions to collectors, just local and regional artists and their art practice).

Let me turn the question around and ask, “Why do YOU buy art?” Here are some possible reasons:

  • A friend painted it and I want to support her/him.
  • It matched the décor in my guest bathroom
  • It was cheap
  • When my friends see it, they will be envious
  • It reminds me of my own work
  • I bought it so I could figure out how the artist did it
  • Looking at it makes me happy
  • It’s a “conversation piece” that will intrigue guests
  • If I didn’t buy it, I’d always regret it
  • It is incredibly detailed must have taken hours and hours to complete

When you buy art, where do you usually buy it?

  • Gallery openings
  • Walk-in visits to galleries
  • Craft fairs
  • Online

Do you tend to buy on impulse, or do you spend several days or weeks thinking about the purchase?

Here’s another question. If someone gave you $10,000 and you had to spend it on art, which one of these (below) would you buy? Each cost $10,000, and you have to choose one of them:

  • A small signed and numbered etching done by a famous artist whose paintings have sold for several million dollars, as an investment?
  • A museum-quality 15” tall sculptural figurative artifact from Africa that is purported to be 4000 years old that is being offered by a collector’s estate?
  • A large abstract painting that you really like by a relatively unknown regional artist whose work seems to have great promise?
  • A series of ten small still life oil paintings that are startlingly photorealistic in their depiction of fruit and cost $1000 apiece.
  • A self-portrait of your favorite celebrity

Remember, you have to choose one – and justify why you chose it 🙂

Most people have limited budget and limited space. Have you ever made a list of why  someone should buy YOUR art for their personal space over someone else’s? It’s an interesting exercise. I can come up with a few reasons why people should buy MY art, but most of them are not that different from anyone’s reasons – “it’s original, it has a story . . .”

What are your thoughts on selling your art? I’ll write a follow-up to this next week.

Take good care, and go make some art – Lyn









9 thoughts on “Why doesn’t my art sell better?

  1. Your excellent analysis should help artists go from creating to selling. From playwrights to painters, most artists do not keep up with the local market. Discount stores like Ross and Burlington carry the latest paint techniques, with bling and frames, at reasonable prices. Whole world is competing for time and money in every category. MARAJA

  2. Interesting to note: today we bought a Debbie Carroll landscape at the Assemblage Contemporary gallery in Buda … something we’ve wanted to do for quite some time (several years at least). It was more than we’ve ever spent on a piece of art, but life is short and it simply makes us happy. Better yet, when we contacted the artist to ask more about it, she said it was painted en plein air in Abiquiu, New Mexico … a place we’ve been and dearly loved. Kismet!

    P.S. I’d go for the abstract painting … while thinking to myself “we’re gonna need a bigger wall” 😉

  3. This post reminded me of a childhood friend who is now a retired lawyer for Cody, living in New York City. Every year for Christmas his mother would give him and his younger brother $30,000 each. Howard would spend all of his gift on art. He had a favorite gallery in Chelsea and was friends with the owner who advised him in the beginning. Howard would buy art from artists who showed promise and art that appealed to him. Today he has quite a collection and museums all over the country have borrowed his paintings for shows. He said he likes that because he gets a free appraisal!

  4. Many years ago I was in a relationship with an art gallery owner. He was all about investment art and I did buy one piece I could ill afford because I liked it AND he convinced me it was a good investment. Years later, I no longer loved him or the art, and I attempted to sell it, willing to just get what I had paid for it. So much for my adventure into investing in art! I donated it to a charity for their auction. I still have almost all the works I’ve bought because I fell in love with them. It’s always love at first sight. I think people who buy my art do so for the same reason.

  5. Great post I would buy the art by the unknown artist ,an. abstract,because I love abstract art and like to support unknown artists.Thanks Terry Barber

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