• Bernie Habicht Online Art

Modern"Super Expensive Art," is nothing but a massive money-laundering scheme

Updated: Sep 8


CMV: "Modern Art" is nothing but a massive money-laundering scheme

This article appears in Reddit Not the opinion of artist Bernie Habicht submitted 2 years ago * by [deleted] I am convinced that modern art is an industry that is heavily involved in, if not completely dominated by, money laundering. This is how I believe it works: The major players are the 'Art Dealer' (receiver of illicit money), The Corporate 'Art collectors' (can be a legit company or shell company, as well as private investor who pays illicit money to the dealer), the appraiser, and the artist(s).

I'm the 'Art Dealer'. Let's say I have $1 million of dirty money that I need to clean. First, I find artists that are desperate to make a name for themselves, and we make a deal in which I will buy their paintings at a low price and sell them to one of my own shell companies, or a separate entity that needs to account for a large under-the-table payment. I sell ten paintings for ~$100k apiece.


I can sell these to multiple shells so as not to raise suspicion. With the right connections, I can make these transactions very publicized, so they will make a lot of noise art industry. This will allow the artists to receive notoriety for their massive success, and they will begin to sell their paintings to pretentious private collectors at high margins. At this point, the initial transaction has already been cleaned.


This is where the real fun begins. After sitting on the art for a few years, the artist's growing notoriety will inflate the initial value of the pieces. An appraiser that works for the "Art Dealer" will add 100% to the value. The art is now worth $2 million in total. The companies will put these paintings up for sale at bougie auctions. Let’s say that they all sell at appraisal value to unwitting private citizens.


$2 million now goes back to the 'Art Collector'. With this process, not only is the money clean but every party in the transaction profits from the art. The artist is now a well known and respected name, likely to find his pieces hanging in mansions and museums, regardless of their actual quality. This is why a blank white canvas with the word "FOOL" can sell at Christie's for $14,650,000.00.

edit: To clarify, what I am looking for is an explanation as to how artists initially can gain notoriety in a legitimate fashion, and go on to sell what appears to be low effort and easily replicable art for ridiculously high prices. What makes them different or special in any way?


Any idiot can write a single word on a blank canvas, so how do they get their momentum going? The Occam's razor explanation for me is that art has a high potential for illegal activity and that many are willing to exploit that and push it to the absolute limit. It is easier for me to believe that these people are greedy than extraordinarily pretentious.

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