Art Market Vultures Descend –

Art Market Vultures Descend –

The ability of an art dealer to profit from the sale of an artist’s work is a privilege, not a right, yet many dealers seem to conduct their business on the assumption that an artist should be grateful that they are getting any money for their work at all.  Unfortunately, the exploitation of artists by art market professionals is not uncommon and seems to have become an almost inevitable and accepted result of the art market boom.

Although I am used to hearing stories of the underhand and questionable tactics used by dealers to make a profit I was particularly saddened by one particular case that I was made privy to the other day by a very influential art market personality.  The case involves a 93 year old painter from the UK (who shall remain anonymous) who had moderate commercial success as an artist but did not quite reach the dizzying heights of fame that most artists aim for.   What ever the reason this 93 year old lady did not make it to the big league, it was seemingly not due to a lack of talent or skill because dealers are starting to take an interest in her work.  Why are dealers starting to take an interest in this artist’s work I hear you ask, well, it is because the art market is predicting that she will not have long to live.

It is not uncommon for artists to become famous or at least more famous upon their death primarily because the creation of work by the artist stops rendering the work that they did produce more rare and desirable.  The sad truth is that many people don’t realise or appreciate the value of an artists work until the artist is gone.  What makes the case of this 93 year old artist so disturbing is that dealers are actually preparing to profit from the artist’s death before it has even happened.  Dealers and art market professionals are predicting that the value of this ladies paintings will increase significantly in value and desirability upon her death and are buying up all her works in preparation.  The worst thing about this case is that because the works are being bought from the secondary market the artist is really not benefiting from the increased interest in her work, and by the looks of it, won’t ever benefit.  It makes me sad to think that people would exploit an elderly artist in this way but it also doesn’t surprise me that things like this are going on.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

6 Responses

  1. Just another case of greed and the profit-motive run amuck!

  2. The whole art market seems to be getting more and more greedy which is not only bad for the artists but bad for the market as a whole.

    Nicholas Forrest

  3. If the works are bought on the secondary market the artist in question will benefit as a result of the Artists Resale Right Regulations 2006. This Rule operates in all EU states.

    The Additional Premium payable will be a percentage of the amount of the Hammer Price and will not is capped at €12,500

    From €0 to €50,000 the artist will recieve 4% of the sale price
    From €50,000.01 to €200,000 3%
    From €200,000.01 to €350,000 1%
    From €350,000.01 to €500,000 0.5%
    Exceeding €500,000 0.25%

    remember it’s a business, and sometimes you can’t always be sentimental about it.

  4. I really enjoy your blog, but this Marxist view is not the appropriate one to understand the art market. The artist is not being exploited at all. Is she sold her paintings ten years ago in the primary market for a small price, she did it because she wanted to; it was a voluntary exchange between the artist and the buyer. From that moment, the painting is not her property anymore. It is a property of the buyer.

    Even with some very interesting peculiarities, in general the art market functions in the same way other market functions. Cars made by Fod during the 50’s today are sold for a price sometimes 500% higher than its original price. Do you think Ford deserves to be paid everytime the car is sold from a person to a nother?

  5. Dear Phil,

    Thanks for the reply. This story actually came out of a discussion on the resale royalty. Yes, the artist will get the resale royalty but a small percentage of the resale price is hardly the same as receiving appropriate recognition and fame for your work.

    Nicholas Forrest

  6. Dear Philipe,

    Thanks for the email. I appreciate your view but in this case the artist is definitely being exploited. Dealers are denying the artist the success and recognition she deserves while she is alive because they want to profit from her once she is dead. I also don’t think that you can compare a mass produced car to an original work of art. Ford doesn’t need to be paid on resale because he sold millions of cars to begin with.

    Nicholas Forrest

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