Sure We’ve Heard of Expensive Paintings, but How About a Millionaire Painter? or Even Painters Who Are Billionaires?
We can all joke that the best waiters went to art school, but it isn’t actually true that all artists die penniless and alone. We have curated a list of the richest painter in the world who are living artists that have banked some impressive balances.
So, let’s delve into the world of the high rollers of art.
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Julie Mehretu – Undisclosed
In 2020 Times named Julie Mehretu as one of the most Influential people of the year. Born in Addis Ababa to teacher parents, she fled civil unrest to live and study in the USA.
She’s one of the richest artists on the globe fore a reason. Her large scale works look like futuristic architectural plans, and there is a waiting list a few years long to get hold of one. When they do come up at auction they easily sell for well over their estimated value. In 2013 Christies New York sold her painting, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation for $1 million at auction. A further 15 of her pieces have sold for over $1 million making her some solid bank.
Georg Baselitz – $20 Million
One fact most people know about German artist Georg Baselitz is that in 1969 he started painting upside down. He did this as an attempt to look past the content driven character of his younger work, and rather focus on the art of painting. He created his distinct look from influences from African sculpture, Mannerist period style and the Soviet era illustrations.
What is most impressive is his massive body of work that he created over 50 years of continual painting and creating. In a 2013 Baselitz famously said, “women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact. There are, of course, exceptions.” He was referring to the fact that women’s works don’t get the high price tags of men, which in itself is a controversial and not purely fact based statement. However, it is true that fewer women are famous for their art today, but that is more because of societal norms than talent.
Chuck Close – Estimated Worth: $25 Million
Chuck close is a prolific large scale portrait artist. What makes his art so unique is that he produces these massive pieces, even though he is in the bounds of a wheelchair since 1988. This hasn’t stopped his work being some of the most sought after canvasses in the world though.
Originally people celebrate Chuck Close for his photo quality hyper realism paintings. Since his paralysis he has adapted his style but not slowed down in his creativity. He paints with a brush strapped to his wrist and colours massive canvasses one square at a time, to create perfect detailed portraits using a low-resolution grid of squares. In 2011 Close and other artists sued the New York Christies and Sotheby’s auction houses for systematic royalties’ fraud.
A ballsy move, which might force him to start selling on Etsy one of these days! A piece of Chuck Close to hang in your home will still set you back between $150,000 and $5 million.
If you’re looking for portraits from another artistic genius, you can Add a Little Color to Your Life with the Most Colorful Portraits by Francoise Nielly!
David Hockney – Net Worth $40 Million
Since his entry into the pop art movement of the 1960s, David Hockney has been an incredibly big contributor and influential British artist. His talents don’t just lie on canvas, he is also a successful stage designer, draughtsman and photographer.
He will be 84 in 2021 but is still enjoying the spoils of his great career. In November 2018 his work, Portrait of an Artist sold at auction for $90 million. This is the most expensive artwork by a living artist ever sold at auction. Jeff Koons holds The previous record, another of the richest artists on this list coming up soon. Koons didn’t take the defeat for long, but more on that later.
Gerhard Richter – Net Worth $40 Million
Picasso and Jean Arp’s works are the sources of inspiration behind Gerhard Richter’s art and his imagination has no limits, and certainly a single medium is not his home. He paints in abstract and photorealism style, excels in photography and has even done glass sculpture all with the same contemporary style. He is best known for his textured multi-coloured oil on canvas abstract style of painting.
In October 2020 Gerhard Richter became the most expensive Western artist to sell at an Asian auction when his 1987 abstract painting Abstraktes Bild sold for $27.6 million via live stream.
This wasn’t his first big sale, a painting done in 1997 sold in 2011 for $20.8 million.
Banksy – $50 Million
Banksy hardly needs an introduction, which is ironic seeing as no one really knows who he is. But Banksy has moved from stencil street artist to selling pieces at major auction houses in the millions.
His playful impressionist piece “Show me the Monet” completed in 2005 sold through Sotheby’s for nearly $10 million. Another piece, “Devolved Parliament,” sold in 2019 London for $12 million.
And Sotheby’s Hong Kong brought home $8.3 million for his graffiti-style piece “Forgive Us Our Trespassing”. More on Banksy in this video:
Bridget Riley – $85 Million
We love this comment on Bridget Riley by art critic Robert Melville once put it: “No painter, dead or alive, has ever made us more aware of our eyes than Bridget Riley.” It’s such a great description for her dazzling Op-art pieces that have sold for millions.
Her repetitive clean lines pop out like a Magic Eye picture and then draw you in. her 1966 work Untitled (Diagonal Curve) recently sold at Christie’s London for $5.7 million. But this isn’t the first high-roller price tag, two more of her pieces have fetched over $5 million at auction. That’s just how the richest artists roll.
Takashi Murakami – $92 Million
Takashi Murakami coined the term “super flat” which describes both the aesthetic characteristics of the Japanese artistic traditions and post-war Japanese culture and society. His paintings reflect Japanese culture, and while he has been involved in flat painting, illustration and animation, it is his fashion collaborations that have brought him the most fame.
When he collaborated with Louis Vuitton. Takashi Murakami achieved celebrity status. He also created an album cover for Kanye West, and the world can’t get enough of his style. One of his painted sculpture pieces sold for over $2 million at Art Basel.
David Choe – Net Worth $200 Million
David Choe is one of the youngest artists on this list at only 44 years old. He is a graphic novelist of Korean descent known for his American figure murals surrounded with frantic, raw, street patterns. His painted figures discover areas of degradation, desire and adoration in his personally coined “dirty style.”
In 2007 when Mark Zuckerberg ask Choe to paint some murals at the Facebook offices, Choe made the wise request to be paid in Facebook stock rather than cash. When Facebook went public in 2012 it was a major windfall for Choe.
He co-hosts a podcast with Asa Akira the name of which we can’t say here, but it is an interesting name for a lifestyle and entertainment podcast, we’ll leave it up to you to research it.
Jasper Johns – Estimated Worth: $300 Million
After the youngest comes the oldest richest artist on this list, Jasper Johns topping the chart at 91 years young. He is most well-known for his 1983 piece “Flag” painting of the US flag, which in 2014 sold for $87 million on auction at Sotheby’s.
He received many awards for his long and successful career, including the 1988 Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennial Artist as well as the National Medal of Artist, and the Presidential Media of Freedom.
Brice Marden – $500 Million (Unconfirmed)
Right off the bat let’s get this out the way, in 2008 Brice Marden sold a painting on auction at Sotheby’s for $9.6 million. Now that your ears are peaked let’s get into how Marden got to this stage in his career.
He was originally meant to go to hotel school in Florida, but then a teacher gave him a MOMA membership card to go see an exhibit by Jackson Pollack who had just passed. From here he was hooked, and he realized art was his calling.
His art has evolved throughout his career. He began as a minimalist, painting monochromatic panels. Roman and Greek architecture, and then Asian cultures highly influenced his style changes through his career. Art critic Peter Schjeldahl described him as “the most profound abstract Painter of the past four decades.”
Jeff Koons – $500 Million
Finally we’re at Koons, number 3 on the list and a huge name in the art world and among the richest artists. So when Hockney took his title for most expensive art work ever sold at auction it wasn’t long before he threw another hat in the ring. Here’s some background.
Jeff Koons wasn’t always a high roller, he started off like most artists struggling to keep a pokey SoHo loft, but through his prolific career he worked up from art school graduate to a massive Chelsea studio owner. He owns a 1,500 m2 factory near old Hudson rail yards in Chelsea with between 90 to 120 employees working on all number of Koons projects. Here he produces his massive reflective sculptures and oversized Warhol-esque canvasses.
But what was the piece that broke the record? It was the Balloon Dog (orange), not actually a painting, rather a sculpture, but it sold for $58.4 million to an anonymous phone bidder in 2013. But in 2018 Hockney sold his piece for $90 million. But by 2019 Koons had regained his title by selling “Rabbit” at Christies for $91 million. All’s fair in love and art it seems.
Damien Hirst – Net Worth $1 Billion
Before one of the richest artists, Damien Hirst is an art critic and entrepreneur. Many of his pieces are a commentary on other art and design, and his take on iconic pop-references earn him an absolute fortune and legend status as an art elite.
No one has made poker dots as provocative, or animals in formaldehyde quite as appealing or appalling as Damien Hirst has, and he has the billions to show for it.
Since being named a member of the Young British Artists in the 1990s he has been on a non-stop path of success. He is considered the United Kingdom’s richest living artist and with one billion banked we would tend to agree.
First place is tied between two artists who have conflicting net worth’s online, so we split the difference and tied them for number one.
Ed Ruscha – $1.2 billion
Ed Ruscha is another American artist but part of Pop Art Movement. His work depicts iconographic Southern California. He has sold more than 50 paintings for over a million dollars. And one for $6 million and some change to spare.
John Currin – $1.43 billion
John Currin’s paintings contain provocative, sexual and social scenes, most of which are actually satirical. What is unusual is that although only born in 1962, Currin’s paint technique is similar to the skills of the Old Master’s with a Renaissance style. It is a stark contrast to the contemporary fashion and scenery in the pictures.
Three of his most famous works are Hot Pants, Honeymoon Nude, Nude on a Table and in 2019, he did his first show after 15-years! We leave you with his words, “Often, I find myself attracted to ideas that are ill-advised and bad… It’s not because I want to shock people or show how open-minded I am, but for some reason stupidity is a theme for me in painting and I find it liberating… I don’t know why, but I feel freer.”
Aluxers, who is your favorite artist and why?