News-Antique.com - Apr 14,2008 - The ability of an art dealer to profit from the sale of an artistís work is a privilege, not a right, yet many dealers seem to conduct their business on the assumption that an artist should be grateful that they are getting any money for their work at all. Unfortunately, the exploitation of artists by art market professionals is not uncommon and seems to have become an almost inevitable and accepted result of the art market boom.
Although I am used to hearing stories of the underhand and questionable tactics used by dealers to make a profit I was particularly saddened by one particular case that I was made privy to the other day by a very influential art market personality. The case involves a 93 year old painter from the UK (who shall remain anonymous) who had moderate commercial success as an artist but did not quite reach the dizzying heights of fame that most artists aim for. What ever the reason this 93 year old lady did not make it to the big league, it was seemingly not due to a lack of talent or skill because dealers are starting to take an interest in her work. Why are dealers starting to take an interest in this artistís work I hear you ask, well, it is because the art market is predicting that she will not have long to live.
It is not uncommon for artists to become famous or at least more famous upon their death primarily because the creation of work by the artist stops rendering the work that they did produce more rare and desirable. The sad truth is that many people donít realise or appreciate the value of an artists work until the artist is gone. What makes the case of this 93 year old artist so disturbing is that dealers are actually preparing to profit from the artistís death before it has even happened. Dealers and art market professionals are predicting that the value of this ladies paintings will increase significantly in value and desirability upon her death and are buying up all her works in preparation. The worst thing about this case is that because the works are being bought from the secondary market the artist is really not benefiting from the increased interest in her work, and by the looks of it, wonít ever benefit. It makes me sad to think that people would exploit an elderly artist in this way but it also doesnít surprise me that things like this are going on.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.