Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings

Marshall Xiaoyin Ma, Charles N. Noussair, Luc Renneboog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We study pricing in the art auction market, focusing on the impact of color composition in non-figurative paintings on hammer prices and willingness-to-pay, by means of both field and laboratory data. Our field data, consisting of art auction prices, reveal a color hierarchy reflected in hammer prices: a one standard deviation increase in the percentage of blue (red) hue triggers a premium of 10.63% (4.20%). We conducted laboratory experiments in the US, China, and Europe, and elicited participants’ willingness-to-pay and measured emotions. We find that blue and red paintings command a premium: blue (red) paintings generate 18.57% (17.28%) higher bids. Color influences prices through the channel of emotional pleasure rather than arousal. Our results are consistent across all three cultures and independent of individual traits such as gender, risk aversion, education and cultural background.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104004
JournalEuropean Economic Review
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Auction markets
  • alternative investments
  • art investment
  • cultural economics
  • experimental economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this