By Robert Frank
So much for the starving artist.
With art prices resuming their upward momentum–after a brief recessionary downdraft–it is now possible for a select group of globally hyped artists to become far richer than their collectors.
According to Artinfo’s list of the seven richest artists, the richest artist in the world is Damien Hirst (he of thediamond skull), with a fortune estimated at $388 million. He is the only artist assigned a specific dollar amount, which originally came from estimates by the London Times.
The rest is a list of names of “seven of the art world’s wealthiest,” leaving respectable room for error since “no one never knows what cut the artist is taking home (plus that initial price tag often shrinks before the sale is negotiated, drastically so in recessionary times).”
All of them have reaped millions of dollars from sales of their work. Of course, it is still true that the art world, like Hollywood or the music industry, is a super-star market where a handful of artists amass huge fortunes and many of the others eking out a living.
But is there is any correlation between current commercial success and reputational and commercial longevity? I often wonder whether jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, for instance, who probably earns far more on an inflation-adjusted basis than jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, will be remembered as having the same impact on the music and culture. I tend to doubt it. So, why does he earn so much more?
Do you think today’s richest artists will withstand the tests of time?