Comprising a list of the world's richest living artists is hard. Why? Because artists don't really want you to know how much they're worth. Think about it. At a gallery, set prices are only revealed if buyer interest is shown. When a piece goes up for auction, you get a feel for the artist's value via their estimates, but only when the hammer goes down can you even fathom how much an artist and their works are actually worth. Numbers big and small are recorded, but what about all the other transactions? What about the private commissions, corporate sales, trading for favors, or straight up cash money transactions on the DL?

Unlike the Sunday Times Rich List which is comprised of estimates measured from identifiable wealth that includes land, property, art and shares in publicly quoted companies, this list focuses on artists and guesstimates made on how much they earn from actual art sales.

Although John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Kaws, Jose Parla, Barry McGee, Fernando Botero, Claes Oldenburg, Banksy, Nan Goldin, and Gilbert & George make lots of dough, it's not enough to get on this list. Not even super polymath Bruce Nauman (who's currently #1 on the list, with Damien Hirst is #29), Julian Schnabel (having lots of real estate and making films doesn't count), Brice Marden (he owns a huge chunk of SoHo and other property), Sean Scully (like Johns, Marden, and recently deceased Freud, Scully is one of the very few living artists to have a retrospective at the MOMA and MET), and Frank Stella (who can command almost a cool $3 million for certain works) made it.

These are folks who draw most of their earnings directly from art related venture. As for who dictates on how much these artists are worth, that's some 1% conspiracy… #occupyartstreet.

Written by Joy Yoon (@Joy_Yoon)

Check out The 15 Richest Living Artists.

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