4 Living Artists Who Broke The Mold and Became Millionaires

We’ve all seen the headline, “Record Breaking Auction Sale!” with a shocking number attached to an artwork that draws on our curiosity and intrigue. Many of these headlining art sales are in the secondary market and are works done by artists who are no longer living or reaping the benefit of their auction block success.

Leaving us wondering, do living artists ever become millionaires selling their works?

Masterworks identified as significant can become investment worthy when meeting specific criteria: examples of the Artist’s mature style, year of execution, condition, provenance, and initial rate of return measured by like examples repeating at auction are some of the contributing factors leading to these sales.

In the primary and secondary art market, collectors often acquire works seeking aesthetic fulfillment. Collectors also buy on speculation of financial investment potential.

There are outliers to the generality that an artist’s work becomes financially lucrative after death. Collectors often invest in living artists – their work is contemporary, engaging, and of the moment. Buying from living artists that galleries promote invests in the future of art history. Works executed within relevant current themes; fame, politics, gender, race, and nationality can catch the public eye, leading collectors and museums to invest. The living Artist’s career can take many turns and life changes, which like any other type of investment, can make it speculative. Below is a quick recap of four current living artists who found great success within their lifetimes, grabbing headlines and high-dollar sales numbers with artworks that push the envelope.

Born: July 28, 1974
Estimated Net Worth (2022): USD 50 Million

Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based street artist, political activist, and film director whose real name and identity remain unconfirmed and the subject of speculation. Active since the 1990s, his satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humor with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique. His political and social commentary works have appeared on streets, walls, and bridges worldwide.

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Born: May 15, 1930
Reported Net Worth (2022): USD 300 Million

Jasper Johns is an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker whose work is associated with abstract expressionism, Neo-Dada, and pop art. He is well known for depicting the American flag and other US-related topics.

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Born: June 7, 1965
Reported Net Worth (2022): USD 384 million

Damien Hirst dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s. He is reportedly the United Kingdom’s richest living artist. Death is a central theme in Hirst’s works; he became notable for producing a series of artworks in which dead animals are preserved, sometimes dissected, in formaldehyde.

Hirst made an unprecedented move for a living artist by selling a complete show in 2008 at auction, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, at Sotheby’s and bypassing his long-standing galleries. The auction raised $198 million.

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Born: January 21, 1955
Reported Net Worth (2022): USD 400 million

Jeffrey Lynn Koons is an American artist recognized for his work dealing with popular culture and his sculptures depicting everyday objects, including balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces. He lives and works in New York City in Pennsylvania.

Koons’ works sharply divide critics. Some view his work as pioneering and of paramount art-historical importance. Others dismiss his work as kitsch, crass, and based on cynical self-merchandising.

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Interested in Collecting Art?

For many, collecting art begins with a sense of passion and appreciating art for art’s sake. Building a collection is a lifelong and often generational endeavor that contributes to enriching your legacy.

Collecting with intent is about controlled, purposeful buying. Barbara Nino, President of International Art Acquisitions, works diligently to research, evaluate, and present artworks to facilitate a plan for multiple acquisitions over time. Considerations for a work’s quality, uniqueness, and historical importance are weighed alongside the recognition of work that exemplifies the Artist’s mature style. Also acknowledged are emerging artists and current art trends.

Building a relationship with an art advisor allows for greater exposure to the arts, opening up representation at auctions, education on the current art market, and the opportunity to consider works through a private sale.

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Published August 14th, 2022