Art Market

James Fuentes, Lindsay Pollack, and Ron English discuss the money behind the art market—what it takes to be an artist, and a patron, in today's rapidly shifting art world.

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Let’s dig into our next topic:
Should I Be an Artist?

Is it possible to
survive financially,

let alone become
wealthy as an artist?

This next stat suggests maybe not.

$26.04 now, that’s the average
income for fine artists,

including painters,
sculptors and illustrators.

But computer systems
analysts earn double that

and for dentists, hourly earnings
are triple what artists make.

Ron, would you advise a young
artist to go back to dental school?

I think that, you go to
dental school, you’re a dentist,

and you can build up a bigger
practice and bring in more dentists

but it still has a ceiling but,

being an artist
actually has no ceiling.

You can just keep getting
bigger and bigger and bigger.

But most people don’t hit those
upper echelons, isn’t that right?

Well, it’s weird, we couldn’t get
in the art world like in the 80s

and so we started our own
art world out in LA called,

first it was called Lowbrow,
then it was called Pop Surrealism,

and people in that movement
now sell their paintings for 200,

or $2 million per painting.

But these are median earnings
so doesn’t this show that actually,

for the vast majority of artists,
they’re not making money like that?

But it’s there if they want it.

You think it’s just a question
of working hard enough for it?

And it’s how much
do you want to sell out?

You were financially successful
and you didn’t sell out, right?

I’m like somebody who
won the lottery five times.

-Okay.
-But also the world changed.

I did something that was against
the grain of what was going on

and then the world changed,
and then it was all okay.

But most artists just assume they’re
not going to make money, right?

You don’t in the beginning,
you make more money in the end.

-Okay.
-Can we disagree?

I think if you
want to be an artist,

you really have to go in

with an expectation,
this an extremely risky profession,

you will likely have
a very low standard of living

and not make a lot of money.

It turns out young people
learn about fine art

where they learn about
pretty much everything else.

Let’s go to the next stat.

44% of young people aged 18-24
discover art online,

through social media

and 34% of young people
aged 25-34 do the same.

Lindsay, how has social media
changed the art market?

I think it’s important
and people really do use it

and it’s a great resource because
it’s free and it's accessible

and I think you can
really get the word out,

quite a lot, but at
the end of the day,

what I really think is important
is still a studio visit,

with an artist,
talking to them for an hour,

listening to them
talk about their work

and looking at work
hanging on the wall.

Ron, how important has
social media been to your own art?

You reach a lot of people
and you can do stuff,

you can put up stuff
very spontaneously

and let people know
what’s going on.

So I found it really fun,
especially for other things,

like the toys and other things,
it’s really good for that.

Yeah, for selling more expensive
paintings, it’s not that important.

You said that you discovered
one of the artists in your galleries

through their social media.

What made their account
pop out to you?

First of all, the amount of viewers
or followers that she had,

for an artist to have
almost 100,000 followers,

I found that astonishing.

And then, I investigated
her Instagram feed further,

and this is Amalia Ulman,
and just was, I was hooked.

How did she get to
100,000 followers though?

Did she have any strategy?

At the age of 23,

an important curator noticed
what she was doing on Instagram,

named Hans-Ulrich Obrist,

and she got a phone call from
Hans-Ulrich Obrist inviting her

to this social media
conference in Munich.

And so, at the age of 23,

she was already on this
major platform for new media,

and then two years later,

she shared a stage with
one of the founders of Instagram,

as an example of an artist
using Instagram as a tool.

Let’s dig into our next topic:
Should I Be an Artist?

Is it possible to
survive financially,

let alone become
wealthy as an artist?

This next stat suggests maybe not.

$26.04 now, that’s the average
income for fine artists,

including painters,
sculptors and illustrators.

But computer systems
analysts earn double that

and for dentists, hourly earnings
are triple what artists make.

Ron, would you advise a young
artist to go back to dental school?

I think that, you go to
dental school, you’re a dentist,

and you can build up a bigger
practice and bring in more dentists

but it still has a ceiling but,

being an artist
actually has no ceiling.

You can just keep getting
bigger and bigger and bigger.

But most people don’t hit those
upper echelons, isn’t that right?

Well, it’s weird, we couldn’t get
in the art world like in the 80s

and so we started our own
art world out in LA called,

first it was called Lowbrow,
then it was called Pop Surrealism,

and people in that movement
now sell their paintings for 200,

or $2 million per painting.

But these are median earnings
so doesn’t this show that actually,

for the vast majority of artists,
they’re not making money like that?

But it’s there if they want it.

You think it’s just a question
of working hard enough for it?

And it’s how much
do you want to sell out?

You were financially successful
and you didn’t sell out, right?

I’m like somebody who
won the lottery five times.

-Okay.
-But also the world changed.

I did something that was against
the grain of what was going on

and then the world changed,
and then it was all okay.

But most artists just assume they’re
not going to make money, right?

You don’t in the beginning,
you make more money in the end.

-Okay.
-Can we disagree?

I think if you
want to be an artist,

you really have to go in

with an expectation,
this an extremely risky profession,

you will likely have
a very low standard of living

and not make a lot of money.