Art Market

Blue and red paintings make the most money at auction, according to a study.

Nate Freeman
Mar 14, 2019 3:59PM, via artnet News
Norman Wilfred Lewis
Eye of the Storm (Seachange XV), 1977
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

A study by CentER, a research institute at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, claims to have unlocked a secret that has been driving art dealers mad for centuries: What colors make paintings desirable?

The answer is as simple as it gets. According to a study that was picked up by artnet News, blue and red, the two primary colors that have been staples of everything from national flags to high-end fashion, are indeed the most popular colors when it comes to what sells at auction. The study began in 2013, when a specialist at Sotheby’s wrote an essay that claimed that red and blue can only help sell a painting. Treating that as a jumping-off point, the researchers Marshall Ma, Charles N. Noussair, and Luc Renneboog analyzed 5,500 abstract works that had sold at auction, according to the Blouin Art Sales index, and found that blue and red works sold for prices 10.6% higher.

Lee Krasner
Another Storm, 1963

The study attempts to describe why those two colors are the most popular, while acknowledging that “the psychological effect of color is complex.” According to a number of experts, red is “associated with being adventurous, aggressive, social, powerful, protective, brave, arousing, passionate, sexy, and exiting (sic).” Blue is associated with “dignity, conservatism, poise, and reserve but also with being relaxed, comfortable, soothing, and intellectual.”

Aspiring artists: Choose your hues accordingly.

Nate Freeman
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