I originally posted this in a thread on WetCanvas, but I think it has wider applicability.
It has always seemed to me that in the art world of galleries and auction houses, ‘success’ is defined as fetching astronomical prices and generating lots of publicity. I don’t think I’m being cynical in seeing that as a direct consequence of the fact that this is the route to more money for them. If they can sell a painting for $5m or better $50m, and get their 40-60% commission, that’s a lot easier than selling hundreds of much more inexpensive works to people in the world outside the super rich. The world of the highly successful artist is not the world of art. It’s a world that includes not just the super rich, but drug dealers, Russian oligarchs and a range of other undesirables looking for a way to launder their money. The property market and the art market are probably the easiest routes.
From my angle I ask myself if, in the highly unlikely event of my being catapulted into that world, do I want my work stuck in a vault as an investment or used to clean up the proceeds from some drug deal?
I’m never going to have to answer that question fortunately, but to the extent that we accept that world’s definition of success as an artist, we are colluding in the conditions that create it.