The Decorative Market Vs. The Fine Art Market: What You Need to Know, Pt. 2

Photo caption: The decorative art you see in homes is a reflection of many different design and decorating trends. Image by Barry D from Pixabay.

For many up-and-coming artists, it’s difficult to know which art market to choose - the fine art market, the decorative art market, or something else entirely. Milan Art Institute co-founders Dimitra and Elli Milan, along with Art Club Director Jake Dunn, tackled this issue in a recent podcast.

In the ‘cast, they spoke about why the decorative art market is important and some of the reasons why it’s such a viable career option for many artists. Below, you’ll find part two of a written excerpt of the podcast. If you haven’t read part one, you can catch that here. 

Jake: Would you say that decorative art has a lower price ceiling than fine art?

Elli/ Dimitra: Yeah, definite. For sure.

Elli: I mean, I think that they can start out about the same, but the ceiling, you’re right, is going to be a lot lower for decorative art, because people aren’t going to pay just for decor. 

Now, there is crossover, where there is art that is very mindful of decor, but also still speaks and it evokes something, and so the collector is collecting something that also goes well in decor and keeps that in mind. There’s a bit of a blur between the two. 

And that’s probably where this podcast is going. It’s becoming more blurred with technology and the way that you sell art and the way art sales are shifting. 

You see a lot of decorative art becoming fine art and you see a lot of fine art that still is fine art become decorative. 

Jake: Do you think print-on-demand plays a role in this.

Elli: Yeah, totally. 

Jake: Do you think decorative art has less of a voice than fine art? Or does that just kind of depend on the artist?

Elli: We [Dimitra and I] might feel differently about that. It’s a really tricky question, and I think it depends definitely on each individual case. I think that what most people think is that decorative art has less of a voice. That’s what most people think. 

Why people think that is that artists creating decorative art make concessions for it to fit into decor and trends. And they kind of have to stick with this wide net of what is going to appeal to the masses. (They have the audience in mind while they’re painting.) I mean, I think fine artists do that, too. And so that’s kind of what drives that. 

And I think that there’s a lot of so-called fine artists that produce work where they’re trying so hard to say something. They try so hard to be meaningful and deep and say something and speak something, it came right out of their intellect and right out of their headspace that it’s actually a piece that’s somewhat mute and doesn’t speak. 

And I think that there are people who create decorative art - I know it’s happened to me - that create decorative art that aren’t necessarily trying to say something and say a whole lot. I had this experience. We had this collector who bought a piece of our art, a piece of our so-called decorative art and a piece of our so-called fine art over the years.

And the first piece that she bought, her husband bought her this poppy painting [of ours]. I got into a lot [painting poppies]. I really loved painting those, just enjoyed the process, because I love red so much. 

And just applying red paint in so much lusciousness of it and just seeing that red oil paint and really layering and I really learned how to use red in those years, because I learned what you could do with like 10 different reds and how you could stack up those warms and cools and whatever… I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think of it, that it would speak, that it could have an impact on anybody. I thought I was making decor. 

Anyway, she contacted me after her husband bought her this piece and she said it was one of the most emotional experiences she had and that it was like God was restoring all of these things to her. It had so much to do with her past and the future and she was telling me all about it, and I never would have thought a poppy field could speak that much, especially if I never had the intention. 

And then she bought a piece that was a bear. And we put a lot of heart and thought and voice into that bear, and it meant a lot to her as well.

The point I’m making, though, is that I think art is so profound on so many levels just from color, the execution of a brush stroke. You can say more in the execution of a brush stroke than you can with this illustrated riddle, you know, that’s in some fine art. And so, nobody can take that away. 

And the power of decorative art is that it can go to the masses all over. It’s like this secret weapon that can get into places that you can’t get into. For all I know, I could find out later that the five-thousand poppy paintings I made in my life affect more people than the 50 bears I made in my life. Or whatever.

Dimitra: I think all originals have that power in them… If you were to get a print - I mean, it can still have power through a print - but you’d have to more rely on the colors and the imagery that you used, and I think it definitely goes more decorative when you start making prints, especially large prints or anything open-edition, then it becomes more, less fine art. I think originals have more power.

Elli: I think that’s a given that originals are going to have more power than any kind of reproduction. There’s a way with reproductions to add a hand signature or signed and numbered. Make it limited. You could hand touch it and touch it up. You know, change it a little bit. Paint on it. Make a one-of-one. There’s things that can be done. 

I think for the sake of this conversation, separating products from decorative art versus fine art is useful, because, you know, where does it end? Is a pair of leggings with art on it art? No, it’s a pair of leggings with art on it. Same with like a mug or whatever. 

And there’s definitely a conversation to be had about printing fine art on useful, everyday objects…

Dimitra: Yeah, it’s kind of a whole other topic…

Elli: But it’s a separate topic, really. And of course, those can be decor, like a throw pillow and that kind of thing. But I wouldn’t call that decorative art. That’s just products. You can put fine art on a throw pillow. You can put decorative art on a throw pillow, and it’s still a decoration. It doesn’t matter what image is on there. 

So, that’s almost like a separate thing, but if we’re just going with the traditional decorative art, I would say typically that’s going to be throwing a wide net. It’s for the masses. It’s somewhat watered down in the themes, because…

Dimitra: You can’t just spend a bunch of time on each one. Right? If you’re creating a bunch?

Elli: Well, that gets into a different thing about lower price points and production. But what I’m saying is if you want the decorative art to appeal to the masses, which typically, that’s what it’s doing, right? Because the trends are dictated by decor and interior design and so there’s demands for these pockets of things. 

For somebody to kind of enter into the decor market, with this really singular unique, like you’ve never seen it before [look] and maybe it resonates with just a tiny market of people, it’s by definition not going to be decorative art. That’s fine art. One small pocket of somebody resonated with it. 

And what we tell people in the school is if you’re going more into fine art, you only need 100 super fans. You don’t need ten-thousand collectors. I mean, you couldn’t handle something like that, right?

And in the decorative market, you’ve gotta have that. When I say that we’ve sold over 10,000 pieces of art in our life, most of that was in the decorative market. It was that wide net. I don’t know that I’m going to find 10,000 people that are going to want my art, my fine art. Or who would want it and be able to afford it. 

Video caption: Watch the whole podcast about the decorative art market versus the fine art market in the video above. 

Final Thoughts on the Decorative Market

The decorative art market is such a big, important market for artists that it’s covered in more detail in the Milan Art Institute’s Mastery Program. This professional-level training program teaches artists how to turn their dreams of becoming a professional artist into a reality in one year. 

Learn More About Turning Your Art Dreams Into a Career…

3 Tips for Creating Painting Sources from Dreams

3 Reasons Why Goal-Setting Is Important to Pro Artists

Art Marketing Tips: 5 Things to do to Prepare for an Art Fair

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