Net worth: $100 Million
(In)famous for: Starting out on Wall Street and then transitioning into the world of contemporary art, and his giant balloon sculptures.
Largest sum paid for his work: $ 33.7 million for Tulips
It comes as no surprise that Jeff Koons, possibly one of the most controversial contemporary artists, made it to the Top 5. His path in becoming a celebrated artist was quite roundabout; he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Maryland Institute College of Art, which lead to a desk job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was then offered working as a commodities broker on Wall Street, which he took. While he was working these day jobs he continued making his art on the side.
Making all that money on Wall Street paid off because he was able to afford the resources he needed for his work. This all goes to show that art students are capable of making some cash after they leave school as long as they can balance work and pursue their creative aspirations. Sure, Koons might have sacrificed some artistic credibility by working on Wall Street but his experience in the world of business has guided his content and the way he has constructed his artistic brand. Nonetheless, his fascination with our over-saturated media culture, while referencing art history's greatest, has resonated with the art institution and his works now sell for record breaking prices.