What Kind of Painting Sells Best?
When it comes to buying and selling in the art market, a finely-tuned comprehension of market trends can be of indispensable use to the novice or seasoned art collector. A sensitivity to the ever-evolving preferences of the moment, as well as to which kind of paintings have historically sold successfully at art fairs and auctions, is the key to making prudent investments in the world of art. So, our experts are here to help you navigate the currents of contemporary art, and understand what kind of painting sells best. Welcome to your 2023 guide to the art market!
1. The popular styles
It is worth prefacing this discussion with the acknowledgement that artistic preference is subjective. Therefore, to a certain degree, the paintings which sell best are those that meet the personal aesthetic criteria of potential buyers. However, there are certainly genres of paintings which continue to perform well in the tough competition of the contemporary market. Abstract art has, since its emergence in the 20th century, continued to sell incredibly well at auctions and art fairs.
In March 2023, the highest-selling artwork was by Wassily Kandinsky. His interpretative landscape depiction Murnau With Church II sold for $44.8 million at Sotheby’s auction house in London. Equally, the market highlights of 2022 show us that more conceptual, less subject-based works sell well at auction. In May 2022, Zao Wou-Ki’s June-October 1985 was acquired for $35.5 million. Both sales remain a testament to the longstanding popularity of abstract pieces. Their broadly interpretive nature make them accessible to a wide audience of collectors.
Moreover, in recent years there has been an increased popularity of works with a sophisticated conceptual element. In 2022, the world of contemporary art saw rise to a unique style of neo-surrealist works by female artists. Madeleine Roger-Lacan and Naudline Pierre produced works of this kind. These works sought to articulate issues relating to the female subconscious and corporeal nature. Iconic female artists such as Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning, and their discussions of female sensuality, certainly paved the way for new and upcoming artists to integrate such conversations into their work.
2. The art fair favorites
We also gain a strong insight into the popular trends of the market by peering into the sales made at art fairs around the world. Just a quick browse through the catalogs of contemporary art fairs will afford you some hints into the kinds of artwork that organizers are trying to promote in the market. For example, the 2023 Art Paris art fair presented the popular themes of exile, personal identity, and sustainable artistic practices in their collection. Be sure to check out our top insights from the fair to help rally some inspiration for your next investment!
Equally, there are certain art fairs which are dedicated to certain styles and markets within the art world, such as the annual Urban Art Fair, and Germany’s Positions Art Fair. This year, in celebration of the fair’s 30th anniversary, Positions is curating a Mexican exhibition in recognition of Berlin’s long standing affiliation with Mexico City!
Art fairs are also particularly instrumental in the promotion of emerging artists in the market. Fairs often have exhibition spaces designated for the remarkable new talents in the world of contemporary art, which tends to reliably pique the interest of buyers. This is largely because the value of a work of art often depends on the notoriety of its artist. Therefore, a keen understanding of up and coming artists can inform you of which paintings and artworks will sell best.
3. The auctions
Finally, the sales recorded at big name auction houses provide us with fantastic insight into the kind of paintings which sell best. Of course, the diverse nature of the contemporary art market is such that there has been a wide variety of styles which have been successful at auction. By and large, the sales made at auction are dictated by current market preferences. This is as well as the popularity of the artists whose work is being sold. This year, we have seen record-breaking art investments through some of the world-famous auction houses. For example, 2023 has been a strong year for the sale of Impressionist pieces. In April, Christie’s Paris house closed a Modernist and Impressionist auction having sold €6,941,718 worth of paintings. Keeping an eye on auction results is a useful tool to understand which paintings sell best.
Explore the market!
And there you have our top tools and resources to help you discover which kinds of paintings sell best. The question itself is multifaceted. It requires both an understanding of the longstanding favorites, as well as the current trends and popular styles of the moment. From art fair favorites to auction house records, there will always be new tips and tricks at your disposal. These will help you to help you make prudent investments. We wonder what could be just around the corner for you and your next investment in the art market!
Founded in 2013, Artsper is an online marketplace for contemporary art. Partnering with 1,800 professional art galleries around the world, it makes discovering and acquiring art accessible to all.Learn more