In Brief

Study Suggests Blue and Red Artworks Dominate Auction Sales

Dutch researchers concluded that blue and red paintings spark nearly 20% higher bids at auctions in the US, China, and the Netherlands.

Alma Thomas, “Red Sunset, Old Pond Concerto” (1972), acrylic paint, 68 1/2 x 52 1/4 inches (image courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation)

It’s been scientifically proven: blue and red artworks are the most attractive. At least to auction attendees buying abstract paintings in the US, China, and the Netherlands.

A research paper titled “Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings,” published by the CentERlab at Tilburg University in the Netherlands in February, set out to uncover hidden trends in abstract art, like the colors that are most likely to attract buyers during auctions, and the hues that spark positive emotional responses.

They found that blue paintings command 18.57% higher bids and stronger intention to purchase, while red paintings increase bids by 17.28%. In terms of average pricing, per standard-deviation increase in blue pigment (compared to a “benchmark white”), the works went up an average of $53,600. They went up $21,2000 for each standard deviation of red.

The researchers conducted lab experiments in China, the Netherlands, and the US to gauge participants’s “willingness-to-pay” and pleasure, finding the results “consistent across all three cultures.”

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