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10 Essential Art Business Statistics You Should Know (update 2022)

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10 Essential Art Business Statistics You Should Know and What it Means For You

10 Essential Art Business Statistics You Should Know (update 2022)

It may not always feel this way, but all evidence from the big arts organizations like Art Basel, Christie's, and other auction houses' marketing data find the art market booming even with a recession. According to their reports, in recent years, the industry has seen significant growth in online art sales and other areas. And while this growth is exciting, it can also be a bit daunting, especially if you're just starting out in the art world.

In this article, I'm going to share 10 Statistics that I found significantly telling about the art industry and I'll provide you with my thoughts regarding what these statistics mean for new and emerging artists. The purpose of this article is to provide some statistics so that you:

  1. can have insight into the creative industries.
  2. see that growth rates, even in this current market and the previous year, can bring art sales (it's just a matter of time and marketing).
  3. know the hurdles you'll need to overcome.

Some caveats to this article:

  1. All of the data provided in this article is cited from the resources identified in the resource section.
  2. It is US-focused, if you are an artist in another country who would like to attribute to the knowledge within this article feel free to direct message me through the contact form located on this page.

Overview of Art Business Statistics Article Layout

So what are the most essential art business statistics?  As I reviewed the data, I found that the top 10 statistics that would benefit you to know are divided into 3 Categories: 

So without further ado, here we go! 

4 Demographic Statistics For Artists To Know

4 art business demographic statistics

1. Total Number of Declared Artists:

There are nearly 2.5 million artists in the U.S. labor force (either self-employed or wage-and-salary workers). What is interesting about this is when I compare this to the numbers from Etsy, Redbubble, Society6, and Facebook "Insights".

  1. Etsy global market share has an estimated 7.5 million active sellers, according to 2022 Proxy Statement Report,
  2. Redbubble research reports estimate it has 728,000 worldwide active sellers,
  3. Society6 annual report indicates they have 450,000 worldwide sellers
  4. The social media platform Facebook indicates that an audience with an interest in Visual Arts is between 43.3 and 52.1 million in the US alone.

My observations:
So what do these statistics say about the 2.5 million artists that claimed to be artists by to the U.S Bureau of Statistics? Small businesses that focus on the art field have largely undocumented competition. The way I see this is, when you feel there is a lot of competition, you are correct. That said, many of these undocumented competitors will give up because, frankly, being an artist is being an entrepreneur.  And according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Fundera:

  • approximately 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year.
  • By the end of the second year, 30 percent of businesses will have failed.
  • By the end of the fifth year, about half will have failed. (entrepreneur.com).

So what that means for you: yes there is a lot of competition, BUT if you can stick it out and gain new collectors for 5 or more years you will increase your likelihood of joining the ranks of 2.5 million artists in the U.S. labor workforce. 

2. The Number of Visual Artists:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are around 247,000 visual artists in the United States. When you compare this number of claimed artists to the previously mentioned statistics of 2.5 million, it is without a doubt a privilege to claim that you are a visual artist.

My Observations:

The current population of the United States is 395.1 million. That means approximately .06% of the total population are working visual artists. When I compare this stat to sports, according to sports digest  "The sport with the most professional opportunities is baseball, with high school players having a .4% chance of playing professionally." What does this mean for you: the chances of being a professional visual artist are even smaller than becoming a professional baseball player.  So if you apply the grit required for a professional baseball player and the duration needed to beat the undocumented competition you will be part of the .06% that claim to be a visual artist in the U.S.

3. Gender:

Art industry statistics show that 54.8% of all Artists are women, while 45.2% are men.  Per Axios.com only 13% of artists featured in museum exhibits are women.  

My Observations:

Women are well underway thanks to the growth in the Fine Art Colleges (where they were historically ignored) and promoting themselves.  That said, there is still much to overcome. But in my experience in talking with clients, the major hurdle for women to succeed is for them to get out of their own way and overcome their own self-limitations of imposter syndrome

4. Average Age:

The average age of an employed Artist is 44 years old.

My Observations:

This is very interesting news, what this tells me is there are many individuals who are becoming artists later in life, perhaps as a second career. Why? Because being financially responsible is a must for most Americans and with the odds identified above, it is easy to see why becoming an artist is not the safe bet.

3 Financial Statistics For Artists To Know

3 art business financial statistics

1. The percentage of artists that have a secondary job:

14.4% of visual artists (self-employed or wage-and-salary) workers hold secondary jobs as artists. 

My Observations:

What this tells me is if you want to be financially sound while you are pursuing a career as an artist you need to have a second job that provides a stable income. Based on the previous data and upcoming data this makes sense.

2. Moonlighting As Artists: in contrast to the percentage of artists that have a secondary job,

47% of moonlighting artists hold primary jobs in “professional occupations,”.  Professional occupation is a term for a broad category describing jobs that typically require a college education or other specialized training. These include doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, and artists. 

My Observations: 

So what this tells me :  this aligns with the first statistic in regards to who is selling on Redbubble, Etsy, and Society6 all of your undocumented competitors.  In truth, those undocumented artists hold a stable job in a "professional occupation" which increases your competition BUT many are just dipping their toe into untested waters and are not all in. So again, the competition is plenty. Longevity and persistence are key.

3. Average Income of Artists:

The industry median annual wage for artists is $44,360. However, there is a wide range in earnings, with the top 10% of earners making over $90,000 per year and the bottom 10% making less than $22,000 per year. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics artist's financial data, the lowest hourly wage is $9.34, the median hourly wage is $29.24, and the highest at $60.54. Hence, the reason why artists have other jobs.

My Observations: 

With such a low income it is no wonder artists need to supplement their income. And there is no shame in that, that is being financially responsible and should be commended!

3 Sales Statistics For Artists To Know

3 art business sales statistics

1. The number of Art Galleries in the US:

There are over 16,000 art galleries in the United States.

My observations:

What this tells me is that 247,000 "declared" visual artists, a majority are not reliant solely on galleries.

2. The number of Online Art Sales:

Here are a few findings collected from Art Basel's Annual Report:

  • Auction & Dealer Sales:
    • online art sales have grown significantly in recent years and now make up a significant portion of total art sales.
      • In 2018, online art sales totaled $4.6 billion. 
      • In 2021 global art sales were $12.4 billion and it is expected to grow 7% to $13.3 billion in 2022.
      • In 2021 the US art & antiques sold by dealers and auction houses represented a large portion of the market with just over $28.0 billion in art sales.
      • Across all art dealers, 55% were more profitable than in 2020, 21% were about the same, and 24% were less profitable with an estimated $34.4 billion dollars made by art dealers.
      • Auction market sales "increased with high demand and strong sales both online and offline, particularly at the high end of the market, as well as an influx of new buyers.
      • Sales at public auctions of fine and decorative art and antiques reached an estimated $26.3 billion, an increase of 47% on 2020." "Post-War and Contemporary art market was the largest sector of the fine art auction market in 2021, with a share of 55% of the value of global fine art auction sales. Sales totaled $6.7 billion, up by 42% year-on-year.
      • Sales of works created in the last 20 years reached $2.5 billion at auction, more than doubling in value from 2020."
  • About Collectors
    • The median expenditure on fine art, decorative art, and antiques rose from $72,000 in 2019 to $126,000 in 2020, before more than doubling in 2021 to $274,000 with HNW collectors (High Networth Collectors).
    • HNW collectors reported that 46% of their total spending in 2021 was at art dealers, galleries, or art fairs and 20% at auctions. 
    • The spending at art fairs was split between live events (9%) and OVRs (online viewing rooms) (7%), while sales at dealers were divided between their galleries (13%), their websites or OVRs (10%), and 7% by phone or email.

My Observations: 

So what this says in combination with the fact there are about 16,000 art galleries: art dealers, galleries, art fairs, and auctions are where artists should target, and online sales are booming. But keep in mind these galleries and auction houses take 40-60% of the sale price, so be sure to use the art pricing calculator to accurately price your works to gain the price you earned this is a numbers game: meaning the more you put out the more likely you are to get a return.  In addition, what this tells me when I review these stats against the competition that is alive and kicking today - the competition for HNW collectors is even bigger (because you are not only competing with live artists but dead ones too).

  • NFTs:
    • NFTs and digital artwork have grown from $4.6 million in 2019 to $11.1 billion in 2021. The median expenditure across all NFTs was $24,000, with 37% of that (or $9,000) on art.

My Observations:

This tells me that art is advancing to a digital marketplace. And because NFTs are relatively new, there are little to no regulations.  With recent issues with bitcoin, fraud, and theft of artwork, my personal approach to the NFT market for fine art is a hands-off approach.  To me, it seems like a fraudulent system geared to facilitate theft and money laundering, but I suggest you do your own research. 

Conclusion

These are just a few important statistics to keep in mind when running an art business. Understanding these numbers can help you make informed decisions about pricing, marketing, and other aspects of your business.

The bottom line with all of the above is that becoming a professional artist is in general exceptionally difficult. I'm not saying it can't be done, but what I am saying is you have to want to be a professional artist you have to behave like Tiger Woods wanted to be a professional golfer to succeed. Practice every day, apply to exhibitions, apply for shows, apply to galleries, and become your best persistent promoter.

References:

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