Blue And Red Paintings Make More Money At Auctions, Study Finds

Many factors contribute to a painting’s value, including the artist, the subject, and the history of the artwork. Colour is also important. A new study finds that abstract paintings dominated by blues and reds sell for significantly more money at auction than paintings made with other colours.

The findings were published in a paper titled “Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings,” published by the CentERlab at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

“Although many colour theories have been proposed through the ages, starting with Empedocles and Aristotle, by painters, physicists, philosophers, psychologists, and recently neuroscientists, it’s striking that few scientific studies have looked into the economic impact of colours and the emotional channel that relates colour to prices in the auction market,” Marshall Ma, one of the paper’s authors, told artnet News.

The findings are not a surprise to experts. Sotheby’s director and senior paintings specialist Philip Hook wrote an op-ed in 2013 extolling the virtues of blue and red paintings. His assertion prompted Ma and his colleagues to examine the phenomenon.

The researchers reviewed auction results from 1994 to 2017 involving abstract works. They determined artwork sold on average 10.6 percent higher when there was a specific amount of blue in them and 4.2 percent higher when more red was included. This led to a price increase of $53,600 for blue and $21,200 for red-related artworks.

The authors also conducted experiments using 500 Chinese, American, and European students at three universities. The participants evaluated works on a digital monitor and ranked them according to preference. They were then asked to bid on each piece. The students, regardless of nationality, consistently bid nearly 20 percent more on average for monochrome blue and monochrome red abstractions, considerably more than other colours.

The colour red has many associations, including love, passion, desire, strength, danger, vibrancy, anger, radiance, and determination. Blue is often associated with trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, and heaven.


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