Who buys art?

My years in market research make me crave an empirical understanding of collecting...a quixotic pursuit if ever there was one. Before I opened the gallery, I hosted a study using Google Consumer Surveys to learn a bit about mainstream demand for art. The results will not rock your world but might provoke some thoughts.

Methodology is at the bottom of this blog. Oh, and sorry I didn’t prepare an infographic, but I didn’t have time, and anyway most of what passes for infographics is ridiculous eye candy that takes twice as long to read as a simple list (end of sidebar rant).

What people say they have in their homes

  • 34% own original artwork
  • 35% have artwork made by a child
  • 21% have no artwork of any kind (original, children’s or prints) in the home
  • Flat-screen TVs (at 62%) are almost twice as prevalent as original artwork

What people say they paid for original artwork

  • 31% say they paid nothing for artwork (for example, it was inherited or a gift)
  • 22% paid less than $500 for all the artwork they own, including framing
  • 8% paid $5,000+ for all their artwork (21% amongst $150,000+ households)
  • Higher-income households are no more likely to have paid for artwork

What people are interested in having

  • 56% say they have no desire to add original art, children’s art, posters, decorative mirrors or a flat screen TV to their homes
  • At 12%, demand for original artwork is higher than any category except flat screens (25%)
  • At 16%, demand for original artworks is nearly twice as high amongst high-income households than lower-income households (9%)
  • Flat screen demand is highest in the lower-income households, where current ownership is lower.


  • Original artwork is present in a minority of moderate to high-income US households.
  • A lot of artwork is passed down or passed along without cost to the owner.
  • While it is true that the richer people are, they more they spend on artwork,  being rich-ish doesn’t necessarily make you more likely to own original artwork. (Caveat: if we studied only very high net worth people, I’m sure we would find a different pattern.)
  • Demand for original artwork is not high relative to mature consumer electronics. About nine out of ten people express no interest in adding original artwork to their homes. (As an editorial aside, wouldn’t it be cool if we could convince people to use those flat panel TVs to enjoy artwork?)
  • Gender, age, presence of children in the household and region made no difference in any of the above. Our sample size was small which makes it harder to discern small differences as meaningful.


Findings are based on 202 online responses from a national internet population of U.S. households with annual income of $75,000+. Google weights for gender, age and region.  I have a graduate degree in this stuff so I can assure you it’s better than your average Buzzfeed fodder, but due to sample size and the research platform, I would not consider this study authoritative. Anyone who wants to geek out on design of the study, I’m here for you.