There’s a reason Vincent Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life. He couldn’t afford to! Vincent lived before the invention of the today’s art market, which I will call the gallery system but I could just as easily call “the gallery con” because it’s a racket. Here’s how it works.
Each artist who wants to come to market is expected to curate his own works and select those which she thinks will sell. These she brings to the gallerist. Already there’s a problem because the artist has no connection to the art market and no knowledge of what sells or how. Most artists have never even met any significant number of art buyers, so the “right” artworks are often not even shown to gallerists.
Once a piece is curated by the artist from her own catalog and produced, the gallerist will recurate the catalog and choose certain works over others. Many times the gallerist will prefer works which haven’t been produced yet, or he will want them in a different size, medium, or frame. Works which have already been produced but were not selected by the gallerist have no home and no way to sell, and therefore count as a total loss to the artist. The gallery system demands constant new production from the artist without any control over what sells or how. Recurating doesn’t increase sales, it reduces them because more valuable, desired artworks are cast out of the market by the gallerist’s failure to recognize them as such… or simply because there wasn’t room to hang them.
Just as the artist has no control over curation or presentation of her works, so she lacks control over pricing. It is the gallerist who chooses pricing, based on some magical formula of his own design. There is so much waste in the gallery system that prices for those works which are on offer must be vastly inflated in order to compensate for all of the unwanted pieces in the back room. Artists cannot offer their works at reasonable prices and are left “holding the bag” with unsold, un-promoted works. The high costs they incur with this method limit the amount they can produce and show to galleries, which limits the stock galleries have on offer, which naturally curtails sales. The public, however, is wise to overpriced works and sensitive to the difference between “known” and “unknown” artists, which keeps these unknown and overpriced artists from selling.