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The _ _ _ News commentator said the world isn’t fair and the economic world is even less fair. That comment got me to thinking, so I took the idea to task and ask the question: How does wealth inequality influence and effect artists and the art market?

Wealth inequality (also known as the wealth gap) refers to the inequitable distribution of assets among affluent, moneyed citizens. Wealth, or capital, is defined as the combined values of homes, automobiles, personal valuables, businesses, savings, and investments including art and antiques.

The $10,000 art market ceiling. The real art market doesn’t begin until the artist gains a foothold on the $10,000 level, the opening difference between a name and a recognized name. Once an artist gains access to the $10.000 level the name of the game changes, as does the recognition and support for the artist in the larger assigned gallery exhibition world.

The ‘name is the game’ mentality. The discriminating art buyer wants to purchase the one work by the one artist that the other collector’s wish had not gotten away from them. The one the press and the PR people touted about the previous week in the Sunday Times, the Daily Beat, the we-got-mentioned raise the price review.

The flavor-of-the- month artist at auction

Get there first and for the best opportunity. The art advisor brought the name and the photos to an exclusive showing, the only showing, and touted the disparity between the asking price and the projected auction/sale price in this one-time opportunity. Buy now, buy big, get a selection before the event and watch your investment parity skyrocket.

Market timing and recognition. Buy more than one and buy the largest ones the argument goes, and collect before the collectors do. Or better, get in early and buy low, preview all the available works before the dealers and collectors have a chance to pick the works over, and over.

The end game. Show them what your skills are at playing and beating the end game. Know the difference between being in the game and being the game. Know there will be an imbalance once the auction/sale is over and you can either be on the advantageous, profitable side or on the losing, no gain for the buck side.

The inequitable distribution of assets at the higher end equates to there being fewer big game collectors today while there are, at the same time, ten times more collectors seriously involved and participating in the art market than there were only a decade ago.

The upper market, the mega-buck market, has evolved into roughly 150 major collectors, buyers and players, while the emerging markets have enticed the nuanced collector into the market with egocentric motives of striking it big in the fewest moves possible.

The perception is that the dealers make money-selling art

The truth may be that the dealers sell art to nuanced collectors to cover their overhead, while holding back a treasured few. And these treasured few are where they make their long term wealth.

About the Author

Lawrence Klepper

Lawrence Klepper

As an artist, Gallery Management Instructor, Gallery Director, Independent Curator, and Special Exhibitions Coordinator for City art museums, college art galleries, and commercial galleries in Califor...