What Color Art Sells the Best? Green Might Not Be the Color of Money After All

What makes people want to own art?

The subject matter? The emotional appeal? The canvas dimensions? The color? While a variety of factors contribute to the enhancement of art value, over the years researchers, artists, and auctioneers alike have noted the power of some colors over others for art buyers. But, of all the colors, what color art sells best?

But does the palette you use really have any influence on your pricing?

In 2013, a study by Phillip Hook – a then senior paintings specialist at Soethby’s – conducted a study titled “What Sells Art?”.

In this, Hook claimed that, “…blue and red tend to be good news for dealers.”

While experts at Sotheby’s and other galleries disagreed on which color, red or blue, is more lucrative for pieces, the common agreement was that both enhance the value of an artwork.

Alma Thomas, “Red Sunset, Old Pond Concerto” (1972), acrylic paint, 68 1/2 x 52 1/4 inches (image courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation)

The 2019 study, “Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings,” researchers Ma, Noussair, and Renneboog tested this red and blue preference theory.

This study looked at which colors attract buyers during auctions in the Netherlands, the United States, and China. The compared works were all abstract pieces, selected to eliminate as many competing aesthetic factors as possible, such as patterns, canvas shapes, and figuration.

So, what color art sells best?

The team discovered that primarily blue-hued paintings attracted 18.57% higher bids and stronger intent to purchase compared to other colors. Similarly, red paintings increased the bidding average by 17.28%.

Collectively, study participants bid almost 20% more than average for heavily blue and red paintings. 

How does this translate into monetary value? 

Norman Wilfred Lewis, “Eye of the Storm (Seachange XV),” 1977 (Michael Rosenfield Gallery” 

This study indicated that every standard-deviation increase for blue in painting resulted in a $53,600 price jump, whereas red paintings enjoyed a nearly $21,200 price boost for standard-deviation in color. 

Red, for many study participants, evoked a feeling of adventure, power, and excitement.

Blue, on the other hand, evoked dignity, intellect, and comfort. 

No wonder buyers desire these colors in their paintings!

So for artists who are looking to increase their sales, consider adding some red or blue to your next piece. 

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