The art market is so unregulated that it remains a mystery despite it being a multi-billion-dollar business. Transparency is greatly lacking, and some dealings even happen in the dark.
But the art world has many dark secrets that only a few people know about. If you start digging, you might find shocking discoveries.
Well, here are a few to get you started.
No justice for artists
At least where sales proceeds at a gallery are concerned.
Most galleries take as much as 60% of the selling price of an artwork, and still slap an artist with the bill for framing, painting the art gallery, bottle of wines to be served during an exhibit, and the paper invitations to the opening.
And that’s not the worst part.
Because if you signed a contract with a gallery, you might be obligated to process all sales through that gallery. This means they will take commissions on whatever artwork that you sell.
Despite the injustice, artists still sign up for a gallery exhibition to boost traffic and make some direct sales.
Moreover, artist that get the stamp of approval from galleries tend to make more sales than those who don’t.
Thus, a trap.
No fixed price tag
And if there is a price, there’s no real-world basis for it.
Thanks to art dealers intentionally and internationally messing up prices, one single art piece can cost differently between deals.
This is especially true with art dealers buying art and selling it forward for a profit.
The art market addresses the problem by blacklisting dodgy dealers and selling art through auction houses and galleries.
During auctions, sale prices are made public. But buyer anonymity shuts down any effort of transparency.
This has led to dealer-buyer relationships crashing and burning.
A good example of this is the love-hate relationship between Yves Bouvier and Dmitry Rybolovlev that escalated to allegations of fraud. For many years, Rybolovlev believed that he was getting art for a great price from Bouvier until someone revealed the sale price before markup.
Suffice it to say that one was very unhappy with the other.
Too bad that art is often sold with the price tag blurred, unless during an auction.
Crime and art mix
The art world is a perfect place for money laundering. This is how cocaine dealers clean their dirty money.
Unlike traditional money laundering like a restaurant business, art is devoid of safeguards against full anonymity, such as business name, bookkeeping, and dealing with customers.
Secrecy is the name of the game. Both buyers and sellers remain anonymous, allowing criminals the opportunity to move their dirty cash.
One way to do this is by importing expensive art at a ridiculously cheap price.
Buyers may not get what they pay for
Some of the most successful artists have people creating the artwork for them.
In fact, American artist Jeff Koons, said on record that he’s rarely physically involved when making his artwork. All he does is provide the concept and paid employees create a masterpiece based on the paint-by-numbers style instructions provided to them.
With $100 million to his name, he can certainly afford to pay people to do what was supposed to be his job. How unfortunate for the buyers who think they bought the work of a master himself.
New York artist Alexander Gorlizki, on the other hand, openly admitted that he outsourced all his wok to painters in Jaipur, India who do far superior work than him. How truly unfair that he gets the credit.
Nothing is more ridiculously sexist than art
Artists are often portrayed as men with a tortured and moody soul, painting half-naked or completely nude women. This idea has been passed on even to the modern age.
Worse, the discrimination was given life by men who are of the opinion that women can’t be great artists.
Women are just no good at painting, said German painter Georg Baselitz.
“Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness,” said art critic Brian Sewell, and promptly pointed out the lack of great female artists.
Rather than artists, women in the art world are part of the PR teams, responsible for representing an artist and promoting and selling their artworks.
But women persist and some of them managed to break through the barrier of sexism.
86-year-old Japanese woman Yayoi Kusama, for example, was 2014’s most popular artist.
The art market may provide the finest masterpieces anyone has ever laid their eyes on, but there are secrets behind it that make it less attractive than it’s supposed to be.