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What Americans Like to See In Art

August 17, 2009

A friend on Facebook recently posted the link to a survey done in 1993 about what Americans like to see in art. A summary of the results of the survey states:

“To a surprising extent, the public tends to agree on what it like to see in a work of art. Americans generally tend to prefer, for instance, traditional styles over more modern designs; they also express a strong preference for paintings that depict landscapes or similar outdoor scenes. In addition, most Americans tend to favor artists known for a realistic style over those whose artworks are more abstract or modernistic.”

One conclusion stuck me as particularly interesting for artists:

Which of the following statements applies to you more?

“When choosing pictures, photographs, or other art for my home, I usually try to select pieces that fit into the general decor of my home”: 34%

“When choosing pictures, photographs, or other art for my home, I focus on whether or not I like the piece:” 60%

It’s gratifying to know that 60% of art buyers select pieces they like rather than those that match their couch!

I also appreciate this finding:

Which of the following statements is closest to your view?

“Paintings should ideally serve some higher goal, such as challenging their viewers to think about art or life in a different way than they normally do.”: 19%

“Paintings don’t necessarily have to teach us any lessons, but can just be something a person likes to look at.”: 75%

And, at least in 1993, art buyers seem to have their wallet in a good place:

Which one of the following would be most important to you in deciding how much money you would spend on a painting?

the size of the piece: 3%

the fame of the artist: 7%

the medium, such as oil or watercolor: 5%

the degree to which you like the painting: 62%

whether you think it will increase in value: 16%

I really do wonder if the results would be substantially different today than they were in 1993.


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