I have been thinking much lately on the topic of what it takes to be numbered in the ranks of wealthy artists. With that in mind, this morning I followed a tweet from Miranda Aschenbrenner over at Learn To Art to an interesting article over at ARTINFO titled, “The Worlds Wealthiest Artists?“.
As they say, “A mere handful of artists have made considerably amounts of money during their lifetimes. But those who have succeeded have done quite well indeed.”
The article goes on to chronicle the successes of art icons, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Brice Marden, Julian Schnabel, Anish Kapoor, and Jasper Johns – all very wealthy artists. I’m not sure if that is an actual ranking with Damien Hirst being the most successful and Jasper Johns the least – in any case, John’s sale of False Start for $80 million in 2006 is not too shabby!
My first thought was the article I wrote a few days ago about Picasso, “Pablo Picasso: 12 Interesting Facts“. One of those facts was that “No artist has ever been as famous in his own lifetime”. I wondered if that was actually still true or if some of the current crop of art superstars had overtaken Picasso’s fame. My guess is that Pablo still owns that one but it makes you think.
My second thought about this list was that I couldn’t see too many women in the line up – which I guess is a confirmation of that old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”! It’s a shame – where are all the great female art moguls? Where are the women who rank in the wealthy artists?
My third thought: What does it really mean to be one of the world’s wealthiest artists anyway? It’s not necessarily suggesting that you create the greatest art. I personally really dislike a lot of Damien Hirst’s work. But then again, financial success is really important – anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t experienced a lack of it. I think being a wealthy artist means simply that you get to have your cake and eat it too!
My last thought – and this is an important one – was that most of these guys are all superb business people. ARTINFO’s article describes Hirst as, “a consummate financier who runs nearly a dozen sundry businesses on the side” and mentions that Jeff Koons is “a former commodities trader on Wall Street who knows how to leverage his value”.
The article goes on to describe the business empire of Murakami: “Murakami.. went the way of Hirst and Koons when he established an art factory of his own, Hiropon, in 1996. Now called Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., with spaces in Tokyo and Long Island City, Queens, his company has more than 100 employees working on his paintings, sculptures, Louis Vuitton bags, inflatable balloons, videos, T-shirts, key chains, and plush toys.”
This fourth quality of being consummate business people is the big take away for me – and something I’ve been trying to hammer home in a number of recent articles on Art Marketing Secrets. The starving artist is a myth! It is entirely possible to be a great artist and a great business person and to enjoy success in both rooms – if you are willing to learn what it takes.
I’m not meaning to disparage the path of the artist who truly wishes to pursue his or her artistic dream without the thought of commercial success. Art can be so incredibly pure that it becomes a spiritual path of it’s own – and that is a beautiful thing.
But – if like most artists you dream of commercial success (meaning being numbered among the wealthy artists), one thing is clear: You have to think like a business person and learn how to speak that language and make decisions in a way that a business does. Starving artists typically make very poor business decisions and that is why they are still starving – even though they would really prefer to be dining in a superb 3-star Michelin restaurant!
And for women? Well – just like in most things – you have to be even better. And I am cheering you on all the way!
Thanks for the shout-out! I've often wondered what makes some artist so much more successful than most. I've always suspected that a healthy dose of "right place, right time" was involved, but this list definitely highlights some of the things the wealthiest artists have in common. It's really interesting that a few have a business background; not what you'd expect from artists! Great article, thanks again 🙂
You're welcome Miranda – and thanks to you for pointing us there. I found the subject really interesting. I'm not normally like this but I've been drooling over that gold mercedes all afternoon 🙂
It's interesting how you mention that the wealthy artists are not necessarily the best artists. I completely agree.
When I give "business of art" seminars, I tell the artists they don't have to be the most amazing, talented artist to earn a good living with their craft. It's less about the art and more about business.
Your article drives that point home.
Artists may think they don't have a head for business, but anyone can learn the basics, if they try. It's just like learning how to drive a car – there's a way to do it and a way not to. You just follow the rules laid out and you'll do fine.
I'm begining to follow the rules that have been laid out and I must say it's truly a process that I've began to enjoy.TYANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ARTICLE!
I really want to thank you for putting up this post. I have always found inspiration from within myself as an artist. I did not have the privledge to be surrounded by painters. I have always drawn artistic types but never a black female artist. Then I discovered that their are celebrities and entreprenuers that are painters. So to any artist reading this dont give up on your dreams. Just because I like to paint I like to believe that it is not the only cash cow money plan. You never know how the creativity inside you will manifest. Good Luck my artist brothers and sisters.
Picasso was once overheard on the phone giving advice to an art student; "Give them what they want! Tits and bums!"
And that folks is how you get rich. The sacred has gone from art and all of the above mentioned, the Hirsts and the Koons with their agents exploit the public's colossal stupidity and gullibility in art matters with visual drivel safe in the knowledge that even the most eminent critic is perplexed when confronted with novelty. Modern art is a three-card trick and you don't need picture cards to play it. You just need the gullible…. of whom there are millions. Remember the 'great one's advice – "tits and bums". Go for it! And you might also ponder his other great dictum …."The crazier I do things the better they like them." Novelty is not art. It is what is left when God is dead and art has nobody to praise. Requiem in pace! Picasso died a frightened little man, terrified of the Judgement of Christ.
Personally, as a professional female artist, I completely agree with this article. Yet, it breaks my heart.
It redefines the ultimate truth: I picked the most difficult career EVER.
Success to me is to be able to sell enough art to heat and eat.
Smart artists know business, how to do outreach. These artists also know how to get the low hanging fruit, er money.
I have art for sale, for as little as fifty bucks.
I do this to get people to look at the highger priced Raglands.
I recently sold a piece of my art online for $6500 and I wasn't even trying! Now I see this huge potential for selling my art directly – not just through galleries, that I never considered was there before. Thanks for addressing the business aspects of being an artist.
I shied away from it for so many years and now I have committed to learn as much as I can about it not only for myself but for the artists I mentor. I believe we are on the cusp of ushering in a whole new era for artists in which they will take the reins of their own business rather than waiting for an outside rescue. I think that model is falling away.
What an inspiring article!
Watch this space 🙂