Well, one of the many fine art markets, that caters to the kind of art that some expert needs to explain. It's perhaps less of the problem with more WYSIWYG art, though even there, having a name makes a big difference to the price. In that market, you get a name because you sold a lot. And how do you sell a lot? Blind luck plays its role.
Same thing happens in the book market, I would guess, and with music - creative artists are classic examples of the Pareto distribution. We all complain about it until we are the ones who strike it rich, then we claim it was all on pure merit.
Yes, a lot of it is a scam, and auction houses definitely do that shill bidding thing, but I don't think it's true of most commercial galleries that you can trust. They don't sell the work at different prices to different collectors. That's a bunch of bull and that would put them out of business. That is done among certain shady galleries and we're talking about the high-end galleries that carry art "stars." Those are the places that make arbitrary pricing on work. Usually, prices can be mostly justified by past sales and the artist's resume, what collections they are already in, etc. It doesn't have to do with auction houses, that's a whole other game.
There are other scams--galleries that will sell for way more than they tell their artists, or not pay them at all. They are infamous for it, yet artists continue to work with them because of their "prestige." ACE Gallery in Los Angeles is one such gallery. It's no secret, but he reps many notable artists anyway. How does he get away with it? No idea. I've almost worked with another guy in Atlanta who once had a gallery in Santa Monica. He did the same thing. Luckily, I was warned by some good friends and I looked into him. I came to find that was no secret either, yet I knew people who worked with him anyway because they still got thousands of dollars off sales. That's a fraction of what he got though. That sort of thing happens more often than these other scams. It happens a ton.
Anyway, this thing about "striking it rich" and then claiming it's all "based on pure merit" is not exactly fair to say, nor is it really true in most cases. It's just something to say, repeat, generalize, and justify for yourself when you don't know the details of other people's successes. It's not based on any factual statistics. Yes, luck plays a part in everyone's life in every type of business, and in every circumstance, including what family you are born into. And misfortune plays a huge role as well. What about overcoming bad circumstances and hard work? And how can one control what collectors like and want to buy? How can you fault artists for any of that?
"Striking it rich" is also a lot of crap. Galleries make more than the artists. The collectors are way more wealthier than the artists, and most decent occupations are not only reliable, but they provide a better living across the board, usually with benefits. Very, very few artists become rich art stars. You're talking about a tiny percentage. You're talking about the ones (that are alive) that make millions. Jeff Koons and Hirst. Otherwise, it's more like thousands of dollars (not enough to live a wealthy life) and it's fleeting.
I agree there is a lot of whacky, scammy, dirty dealings in the art market, but I don't believe it is the norm among reputable businesses that have been around for decades and sell regularly to their clientele. I'm not talking about the super high-end, but I'm talking about galleries that sell art up into the tens, twenties, maybe thirties of thousands, or thereabouts.
There is a good HBO documentary about how the contemporary art market got converted into a money market at large auction houses. It is called “The Price of Everything.”
Parts showed Jeff Koons in his “workshop” with his minions cranking out copies of old masters that he slightly modified and sold for outrageous prices. He of course, explained how he really was making all these art works himself even though my eyes told me there were rows of easels and appretice painters actually doing the work.
It also featured a 92-year-old Chicago philanthropist who had a large collection of contemporary art in his home and you got to see a lot of it while he was talking. His collection includes Jeff Koons’ silver inflatable bunny rabbit that is now worth $65 million . He also owned a Jasper Johns painting he paid $10 million for that is now worth $100 million. Of course, he did have another one that he bought for big bucks that is now worthless. No worries. He never stopped smiling. It’s just money.
Somewhere in the video they said that trying to sell old masters just wasn’t working out because there was a limited supply and the market was sort of dead so they had to come up with something else. Contemporary art was it.
The most amazing part of the video was the awareness of everyone that the whole thing was nuts and might be starting to circle the drain. Maybe.
Its available on Amazon Prime and HBO.
Off topic, Amazon Prime also had another video called “The Inventor—Out for Blood in Silcon Valley.” It was about the fraud commited by the blood testing company Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. There was a lot of willful blindness in that one too.
I have 119 pictures (to date) in good homes with loving owners. ( I keep a log book ).
When I started painting in 2017, I realised that, no matter how 'amateur' I do it,
when a picture tells a story directly to an individual, that has value.
So I paint for my audience a lot of the time. Some pay me for them, some don't, the
joy though is all mine.
That is a lot of sales, or a lot of great movement (whether you sold them or gifted them). Great job!
I have been keeping track since the 1990s (painting seriously since the 80s). I kept a log book until I started getting into the hundreds and then made a database because it got to be too much. Now I'm over 1,000 (not sales, paintings). I've sold about two thirds. Some of those have been gifts, of course. But I still have a horrible storage problem.
It is amazing when someone wants something I made. I always feel humbled and, well, strange. I can't really believe it. It boggles the mind, but I am beyond appreciative. Sometimes I feel like I should be paying them. ...even if someone wants it as a gift. I always make sure.