There are many, many, more artists who do not make money from their art than there are artists who make reasonable amounts of money from their work. Think of poor old Vincent Van Gogh, whose paintings now sell for millions and millions of dollars; but who was forced to beg from his brother Theo, all his tragic life. Art is, in my opinion, a very shady occupation and world. I have always seen artists akin to prostitutes, in the Dorian Grey tradition, selling their art instead of their bodies.
Is being a commercial artist selling your soul, or in fact just selling your art?
Rich people buy art; and artists and their managers or agents must curry favour with these wealthy benefactors. Suck up to, talk shit to, hang out with, and do whatever is necessary to sell their art to them. Artists sit within a web of social networks, sometimes as their iconic centres; and their images and ideas must ruminate through those milieus.
Artists Who Make Money, And Artists Who Don’t
Some artists make a lot of money, such as Jeff Koons who constructs extra large puppies in a kitschy style that defies belief in good taste. His Balloon Dog (orange) recently sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s in New York. Jasper Johns and his signature symbolic art sells for seven figures in some cases. Robert Ryman, Bruce Nauman and Richard Prince are all American artists who command million dollar price tags for their artistic works.
Exhibiting art can be compared to what people in business call lead generation. An idea, an image and an aesthetic depiction are put out into the world, or into a microcosm within the greater community. Poor people don’t, generally, purchase art, so that microcosm is middle class or upper middle class. Artists can be trendy, and/or seen to be at the cutting edge of ideas and fashion. Brett Whitely was such an artist in the nineteen seventies and beyond; he blurred the divisions between popular art, music and fashion.
Andy Warhol was a much bigger example of the same kind of thing in America and then around the world. Commercial art meets high end culture and becomes pop culture; suddenly appealing to a mass audience. Digital art is now all pervasive in the wider community through the uptake of computers and digital platforms. More people than ever are exposed to the visual arts and most of them don’t even realise that it is happening.