Ever wished that you’d been born during the Renaissance so that you too could take your sketches to the next level of fame and fortune? If so, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s no need to time travel to become a celebrated artist. Here you’ll find a collection of some of the richest visual artists of our time who had no problems turning their work into dollar symbols.
6. Takashi Murakami – $100 million
Takashi Murakami is a contemporary Japanese artist who has made a name for himself by blurring the line between fine and commercial art. Not only does he do paintings and sculpture, but he’s also a big fan of things like fashion and comics, which he’s not ashamed to work into his pieces. His art is sort of a blend of traditional Japanese tradition and modern pop art all rolled into one. When asked what he’d call his own style, he coined the term “super flats.”
He makes everything from fun, Anima-looking sculptures to paintings that look like something that Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali might come up with if they had both really loved cartoons. He’s also come out with several books like Geijutsu Kigyoron, Geijutsu Tosoron, and Superflat.
5. David Choe – $200 million
David Choe is one of those artists who are not just rich, but whose art makes it easy to understand why. Not that there’s not something to those super artsy splashes of paint on canvases in upscale modern art museums. But if you’re one of the many people who never just really got that kind of thing, then you’ll probably really like David Choe. This guy’s work reflects that he’s actually super talented and not just in a heady, intellectual sort of way.
He’s more an example of why future generations will probably point to street artists as some of the most revolutionary creators of our time. His art revolves around everything from pop culture references to surrealism to adult style fantasy scenarios. He’s shamelessly fascinated by sex while also being a notorious fan of peace, redemption, and animals. All around, he’s an interesting guy who makes unique, accessible pieces of art.
4. Andrew Vicari – $210 million
Whether or not you ever heard of Andrew Vicari, rest assured that some very wealthy people did during his lifetime. Before his death in 2016, the Welsh painter got his start as a portrait artist back in the 1960s in London. Fortunately for Vicari, he found his niche in portraiture and was hired by the King and government of Saudi Arabia to be sort of an official court painter in 1974. He made a fortune painting portraits of the Saudi royal family and to this day there are still museums in the Middle East dedicated completely to his work.
Along with the portraits, he also painted scenes of Middle Eastern life and was once dubbed “The Rembrandt of Riyadh.” In 2001, he made an epic $27 million sale of 125 paintings which were themed around the Persian Gulf War to Saudi Prince Khaled.
3. Jeff Koons – $230 million
Jeff Koons is an American artist who first began making a name for himself back in the 1980s. Now among the world’s most expensive artists, his work has been characterized as everything from irreverent to downright fun. Back in 1986, for example, he created this series called “Luxury and Degradation” which was shamelessly centered around the theme of alcohol. Then there are his huge, shiny sculptures for which he’s probably the most well-known.
The sculptures tend to feature pop culture themes, such as a massive pile of Play-Doh or large metallic balloon animals. Among his most famous works is, undoubtedly, “Balloon Dog (Orange)” which sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s in 2013. Seriously. Someone out there must have wanted to pay major tribute to a clown who once balloon sculpted creatures at his childhood birthday party.
2. Jasper Johns – $300 million
American artist Jasper Johns is no newcomer to the art scene and first started making waves back in the 1950s. He became an influencer before becoming an “influencer” was the lofty goal it is today by leading America away from the whole expressionist fad and into a movement known as the concrete. He’s also credited as being a part of the minimalist and pop art movements and really digs pieces that incorporates American themes.
A lot of his work depicts things like American flags, maps, and even things like letter or numbers. Back in 2011, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama himself, as the New York Times lauded him as the “foremost living artist” in the United States. That said, his work doesn’t come cheap and it’s not unusual to see one of his pieces go for millions of dollars.
1. Damien Hirst – $1 billion (?)
Though most sources agree that English artist Damien Hirst is the richest living artist in the world, it may be worth mentioning that no one seems to be sure by how much. Well, not exactly. Some sources claim that he’s only worth a “paltry” $300 million, but others insist that he’s a bonafide billionaire. Regardless, it’s safe to say that the guy’s got money and plenty of it. So what themes are central to his art? Well, mostly death.
Apparently, death sells because one of the collections that first put him on the map was one in which he utilized several dead animals preserved in formaldehyde. Make no mistake, however, for dead animals are not his only medium. Back in 2008, he earned a cool $198 million by selling not just one piece, but an entire show at a Sotheby auction. In completely bypassing the gallery route and selling the collection, which was called “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever,” Hirst was said by some to have undertaken a risky venture. As you may have gathered from his earnings, it turned out to be one which definitely paid off.