Australian household spending on visual arts has been growing over time.
We now spend over $100 annually on paintings, carvings and sculptures, art and craft materials, and art gallery and museum charges – a 26% increase on 2003-04 levels in real terms.
Australia’s art museums are home to 2.8 million art works. In 2007-08, they held over 2,000 special exhibitions or displays, and recorded over 2 million paid and 10 million unpaid visitors.
Our art museums and galleries also enable millions of international tourists to experience Australian culture, and fuel important economic activity through tourism. In 2009, around 30% of international visitors and 43% of domestic travellers visited a museum or gallery.
With around 11 million visitors a year, galleries are now more highly attended than Australia’s most popular spectator sport, Australian Rules Football, which had 10 million attendances in 2009-10.
We found 9% of Australians over 15 years of age attended an Indigenous visual arts and craft event in 2009 – equivalent to over 1.66 million people.
Looking at the arts overall, attitudes to Indigenous art are increasingly positive. Almost half of all Australians (47%) say their interest in Indigenous art is growing. A further 17% say they already have a strong interest and will continue to.
1.2 million kids do arts and crafts for fun, and almost 2 million adults make crafts like woodwork, jewellery and ceramics.
Creating visual arts and crafts is also the most popular form of creative activity by Australians, with one in five participating.
This makes craft more popular than Twitter, which has 1.2 million users in Australia.
In 2012, over 43% of children aged 5 to 14 did arts and craft as a recreational activity outside of school hours.
Similar numbers of kids visit museums and galleries each year (43%), making visual arts one of the most common way children engage with the arts.
Government funding of $330 million ensures art museums can open their doors for free to over 10 million visitors a year. This represents a cost of $0.04 per Australian per day.
Visual arts organisations also lead the arts sector in generating private sector support for their work, generating 24% of the $221 million donations and sponsorship earned by the arts in 2009-10.
All types of artists face challenges meeting their minimum income requirements, but visual artists earn amongst the lowest incomes of any artists, despite being one of the most highly educated groups in the workforce.
In 2009, the average visual artist spent 42 hours a week across arts and non-arts work, and earned $34,900 from all sources.
Australia’s 12,800 visual artists are well educated, with 90 percent undertaking formal training to become a professional artist.
Creative training is also valued outside the core arts sector: 20% of visual artists apply their artistic skills in creative industries such as advertising, design and architecture, and 20% apply their artistic skills in non-cultural sectors such as health.
Relative to the global market for visual art, the Australian market is small. In 2011, Australian auction sales represented 0.6% of the total global auction market.
China is emerging as the largest visual arts market in the world in terms of auction sales, recording $5 billion in 2012 (41% of the global auction market) – highlighting big opportunities for Australia in the future.