The $46.3m painting that made Gerhard Richter sick

“There is something really shocking about the amount” — Gerhard Richter.

Here’s why Christie’s and Sotheby’s don’t contribute to culture and why this will change.


“Abstraktes Bild” appreciated by 5,000 times since it was sold by the artist. The artist got close to 0 from its sale.

Abstraktes Bild by Gerhard Richter

The secondary contemporary art market is booming. Price records are routinely broken. You could argue this is great news for the art market and artists in general because this means more people are spending more money acquiring works of art. But does it really trickle down?

Reacting to the recent $46.3 million hammer price his Abstraktes Bild fetched at Sotheby’s, Gerhard Richter doesn’t seem to agree.

“We artists get next to nothing from such an auction.”
German painter Gerhard Richter stands besides Abstraktes Bild. Photograph: Jens Meyer/AP

Read article on The Guardian: Amount of money that art sells for is shocking, says painter Gerhard Richter


Christie’s and Sotheby’s are 250 year old companies that control in duopoly roughly 2/3 of the world’s global secondary art market. They capture anywhere from 20 to 50% of the value of each transaction.

Yet, Sotheby’s and Christie’s give nothing back to artists.

Despite Christie’s and Sotheby’s unique position to do so, their contribution to culture is close to zero.

Richter is not particularly tight on cash — but the point is that Abstraktes Bild’s 5,000-fold appreciation in value did little to better the artistic community as a whole. The same holds true for hundreds of younger, or less known artists who are not able to benefit from success at auction.

Some are fighting for the establishment of a resale tax to force auction houses to give back to artists (it is already in place in the EU and California although restrictively capped). Yet legislation is not the point.

The point is —

I am a collector. Do I really want to deal with auction houses that dominate the art market and yet do not contribute to culture? Do I have an alternative?

Why we share 50–50 with artists.

The secondary art market’s growth is structural. (a) With technology it becomes increasingly easier to sell unique artwork (communication, sharing high definition jpegs) and (b) an increasing number of people are looking to collect art.

Second, boundaries between primary and secondary market keep getting thinner. Artwork purchased from the artist/gallery is resold months after it was bought. Artists sell work directly at auction.

The way artists get paid needs to evolve — too.

Why don’t artists make money when their work is resold? We think they should.

That’s why at ArtList, we share our commission 50–50 with the artist who originally created the work. This means artists get 5%, and we get 5%.

Richter would have made $2.3m had his work been resold on ArtList

Each artwork you purchase on ArtList contributes to a sustainable revenue stream to support the artist and his/her family. ArtList sends checks twice a year to artists whose work were sold. Learn more on www.artlist.co/values .

ArtList is just starting out so we don’t yet have $20m artworks for sale, but we’re getting there. Along the way we’re making the global art market fast, secure and fair.


If you agree with us, don’t hesitate to share. Feel free to reach out too — @kschlenker @artlist_

Thanks to Artist Rights Society for working for the rights of artists to earn revenue from their work, and thanks to the wonderful Ellie Hayworth for helping me greatly with this post.