Buyers of Art

Lets try and create some starting points about who buys art and why… I’m not saying this is a definitive list by the way, but a way of understanding the buyers basic motivations. There will be much more to this and for the artist wanting to sell their work they may well find the following information useful in connecting with buyers. Feel free to add comments tot he article so I can add more information or details as required if you have another view or three.


Buyer profiles:

I like it – Colours, lines, shapes, tones, subject matter, scale, composition, price,. Any and or all of these (and maybe a few others) become the motivation for buying a piece, this is usually supported by a justification “It will look good where I want to put it.” Mostly it’s about decoration or showing something they believe is beautiful. Long term value as an appreciating artwork, negligible. “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like…”

I like the artist – They probably like the artworks created by the artist, the style etc as well as the person… Perhaps they have not met the artist but have been told about them by a gallery. “You really should look at the work of..” These buyers often connect with the person, then the art, they will then have a story to tell, “We met this artist and wow!) They are not so interested in the longer term value of the work, perhaps wishing it’s value may rise as well as having decoration value. “We met the Artist at the gallery, got to see their studio later on and now we know more about them and their inspiration, we really like the work too!” – “The Artist is a good friend of ours and we love their work as well as them, great to have one of their works in our collection.”

I like the price – An art work is purchased above a certain amount, the gallery is renown for having works which are above a certain value, the buyer knows that, the buyers friends know it too. so to have one from “X Gallery” becomes a status symbol. No mention of the price is made and any interest in the artist is often cursory. This can happen at any level in the art field from decorative works, through to contemporary art and prices though to many thousands of dollars. They say they are informed by the gallery the value of the artists work will rise, but who knows… “The gallery has taught me a lot about this Artist and their work…”

Secondary market buyers – “I like works already with some value to them, the artist is often better known, has a track record of success in some way and their works are valued by others enough to make it to the secondary market.” Auctions of artworks are usually the way these buyers get the works. They could be building an investment portfolio and are linking their budget to the works and the propensity for the art to appreciate in value. “I put into action my knowledge of the Artist and art-world, coupled with information from the catalogue and other sources.”

Institutional – These are Gallerists and Curators buying for larger organistations. They may be looking for works of significance from certain art eras, works and or artists whose value may have had critical acclaim, or their works may hold some deeper cultural or contemporary interest, providing some measure of value, perhaps as an investment and as a culturally valuable piece. “We buy works of broader cultural value first and foremost, the fact many of these may appreciate in financial value is often secondary but a nice bonus.”

Patrons – “We buy works by specific artists sometimes and also because we like the works and or we like the concepts communicated.” Call them rich, eccentric or whatever, these people are great patrons of the arts, often holding large collections revered by the art community at higher levels. It could be a show of status but often in a more demure manner. “We love following the work of Artist X, but we also buy others too, we don’t flaunt the collection to others we just love to support the wider cultural fabric of society.”

Investors – “We want works, which will appreciate in value, yes we buy what we like too so if we get ‘stuck with it’ we can live with it.” Using a broad range of information to make (hopefully) effective buying decisions to collect works which will provide a financial return. Coupling knowledge of works, academic information and investment trends for the works to make informed decisions. The works can be sourced from the primary or secondary markets and sold at auction later on. “It’s an investment first and foremost.”

Copyright © Steve Gray 2010+


6 Responses to “Buyers of Art”

  1. Art Buyers, who are they? : Art Re-Source on July 4th, 2010 10:28 am

    […] Ever thought about understanding buyers of art more, well now you can by checking out this article on them at Art Stuff. […]

  2. Sue Martin on July 4th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Steve, this is a very interesting way to look at the art market. Though it’s not necessarily a hierarchy, it seems most likely that emerging artists will sell to buyers in the first three categories and may not reach the later categories until late career (if at all). It would be interesting to hear some personal stories from those artists who have made the leap from the first three markets to the next two or more. Did they have a lucky break? Or was there a particular, well planned strategy that worked for them?

  3. Fiona Stolze on July 4th, 2010 9:25 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post and just wanted to share that the category “I like the artist” is the one that plays the biggest role with me and my art. I feel very much that people are buying a piece of me, of my energy and have a personal connection to me through the silk painting they buy and hang up in their home.

    They want to hear the story behind the painting, they want to hear more about me, the artist. And they love the artwork otherwise they wouldn’t buy it.

    I don’t know any other types of customers. 🙂

  4. Steve on July 4th, 2010 10:23 pm

    Thanks for the feedback and looking for more ideas, “the more I look the more I’ll find!” 🙂

  5. Muffy Clark Gill on July 9th, 2010 1:14 am

    I agree with Fiona’ comments. Many people have bought from me because they like me personally, but there is also a strong following for liking the subject matter, and how it is presented-In my case it is done in Batik

  6. mullerjeanfrancois on September 5th, 2010 1:38 pm

    great place.

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