From the artist point of view, the art world is a golden bridge to the highest form of success. Why most artists won’t worth millions of dollars? Many books and programs tell them it’s easy to get rich fast. We see a 150K USD banana duck-taped to the wall, and think: it must be easy to become a successful artist! The reality is, making it in art isn’t as straightforward as it appears…

The Art World

The influence of the global art market

The global art market is evaluated at $64 billion in 2019. However, this number isn’t quite relevant for 99% of us. The “1%” of the world’s population currently holds over 44% of household wealth. In other words, we the 99% are merely splitting what the leftovers.

the “1%”

At Art Basel 2018, 80% of collectors bought works that are under $5,000. Meanwhile, 1% of buyers purchased works that are over $1 million. If an artist wants to make million-dollar art, he needs to dance with the high-class society, the “1%”.


the art world
“The Art World Is Full of Lies, Smuggling, and Financial Hijinks”
Vice News August 2020

The top art collectors

High-class society members

the art world
Well, an artist will need direct contact with one of them if he wants to make them his clients. Better to know them then: The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has defined them in the following aspects:

#1: Economic wealth

Evaluating one’s economic wealth is straightforward but often misleading.
The #1 on the rich list, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, is 42 times richer than the 500th, Laurence Graff. Just the word billionaire isn’t enough to indicate the differences in wealth.

#2: Cultural wealth

This is about owning a large collection of art and antiquities, participating in major auctions and even getting a degree from a prestigious art school. Cultivating one’s taste takes a lot of money and time. The cultural wealth is the main barrier between the middle class and the high society.

What can we learn from the last generation of top artists?

#3: Social wealth

Networking is important. Apart from personal relationships, other semi-public social activities are also considered important: being able to invite experts in politics, science or religion.

#4: Symbolic wealth

It can be a natural quality given at birth or something trained over time. For example, a title or pedigreed family name, an appearance (vocabulary, hairstyle, posture…), ownership of a castle or a historic monument.

the art world
the art world
the art world
the art world

What can we learn from the last generation of top artists?

What they did right to succeed?

  • Moved to one of the best cities at that time for their development and for selling their art (New York, Berlin, London, Paris…)
  • Managed to have direct contact with the high-class society
  • Invested everything they had (wealth, time, relationships)
  • Had provocative personalities or controversial auras, which is a good way to approach the high society without the impression of ‘trying to marry one’s way out of bankruptcy’
the art world
the art world
the art world
the art world

The Art World in the Age of Social Media

Social Media is a double-edged sword

On one hand, you can get millions of followers and a big audience on Instagram or YouTube. It helps you establish a brand and make yourself a name. Perhaps you might reach the top tier buyers eventually.

the art world

On the other hand, it gives you an illusion of success by flooding you with many likes and shares. It’s addictive. When you want more results, you become an easy target for marketers. Have you received DMs about online courses, paid exhibitions or shoutouts? There you go…

Be dissident to the Art World?

Don’t feel like dancing around the rich?

Here are some alternatives:

– Ignore the art market and sell directly to the masses (the 99%)

– Price your art in a sustainable way as the 99% don’t have crazy money

– Sell art prints and merch as an extra source of revenue

– Get art school education if you want to work with institutions

– Learn digital marketing skills online using free resources

– Lead or join a community of like-minded artists and succeed together (Stop promoting just your name and your art)

And have realistic goals for your art business…