How to make profits out of an artist

Auction of David Hockney's paintings - Christie's New York May 2009

Friday two weeks ago, David Hockney’s painting Los Angles (1967) was sold for £121,250 at Christie’s in London. The cheapest of 150 Hockney artworks in sale was an offset lithographic poster in colours worth £583 which is less than Christie’s expected it to sell it for. Christie’s estimated its worth between £600 and £900. In comparison of the value the paintings gained in London, Three years ago David Hockney’s painting Beverly Hills Housewife sold for 5.2 million at Christie’s in New York.

Clearly, one reason artists are producing art in order to sell it, but many more people than just the artists themselves are benefiting from his from his art. I am not talking about the enrichment art gives to his admirers and the viewers but of the revenue others gain through his artworks and through the special lifestyle artists live.

The popularity of artists has always been considerable since they are inspiring to others and are interesting people. However, they do not primarily produce art in order to become rich; they do it because they enjoy doing it and because people sufficiently value their work to the degree that they can turn their passion in a job.

The people I am talking about are the ones who are profiting the most from artworks: Investors and dealers. They are partially responsible for the value of an artwork and for the artist’s popularity. If they have connections to the right people, that is to say wealthy people, they can hype up an artists for as long as they want to, and by the same token they also have the power to drop the artist when he has found someone more interesting and more profitable.

The majority of artists could not afford their living costs from painting alone, especially in the beginning when it is usually very hard. Many artists have been dependent on supporters, such as Egon Schiele, a famous Austrian painter, who was financially supported by an Austrian journalist who was one of the first people who bought his artworks and wrote about his art. The journalist’s good connections meant he could always help Schiele throughout his career with both financial aid and advise.

Another example for the cooperation between artists and their financial supporters is David Hockney. He has been caught by the eye of his friend Martin Gayford, a British author and journalist, since five years who has just recently published the book A Bigger Message which compiles a collection of interview transcripts, pictures and analysis about Hockney’s work and life.

The question which arises from such an arrangement is whose benefit is greater? Is the journalist’s profit which he earns by the amount of books sold greater or is it the artist himself who benefits more as it pushes his brand awareness? Or is it symbiosis well balanced?


3 thoughts on “How to make profits out of an artist

  1. The investments in fine art is one of the best choise to make profit as also recently suggested to me by the friend Jan Rosenfeld Porcini who is owner of an art gallery at Rathbone street in London. The point is what kind of artwork and artist I can buy? An unknown or a famous artist. This depend from my feeeling and my money. If I have enough money I can buy an artwork of famous artist. Otherwise to buy an unkown artist give me two chances: 1st to buy and wait the increasing of the value of the artwork. 2nd to buy without any expectance. Other question is: if I need money how I can be sure to sell immediately my artwork and have money? To this question I cannot answer.
    The long term investment I think is sure also if you buy a unknown author. This depend from the fact that every thing always increase its value. This is my opinion.

    1. Yes, your friend Rosenfeld is right. But the question is which perspective is he considering? As an gallery owner or as an individual?
      Investing in new artists is rather a game than a decent investment because you should actually expect to lose money. You can not predict what will happen with your money. Or you can also see it this way, you are buying a picture which you like to own. If one does not have the money to invest in artworks by very famous and established artists then investing in fine arts is rather something you are doing just for yourself. It that not what fine arts should do, enrich people while they look at it and makes them think about how the artwork was created and what it is representing?

  2. You are right. Passion for art and invest in art have to go together. This happen for example in the oldtimer field in wich many persons invest their money. They don’t put their money to increase the value of the car but just to save it from the destruction. They do this for passion. The same passion that you can see in some oldtimer exibition or vintage race car as Goodwood (UK), Retromobile (F), Essen (D), Mille Miglia (I). There you can feel emotion and passion only. But behind this there is always business. This is unavoidable. Regards. Giuseppe Valenza

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