“Peter Lik may claim to have sold the world’s most expensive photo, with the $6.5 million Phantom (see $6.5 Million Landscape Is World’s Most Expensive Photo), but the artist is artificially inflating his market. (This is not the kind of cheating we had in mind in the story Does Photography Help Artists Cheat?)
The photographer, who deals his own work through the 15 galleries he owns (and also dabbles in real estate–Photographer Peter Lik Lists Maui Home for $19.8 Million, More Than Twice What He Paid), is hardly a household name, but Lik has quietly managed to turn himself into the Thomas Kinkade of photography, selling pretty, pleasing, banal images that are wildly popular with a certain class of inexperienced collectors, but are barely recognized by the art establishment. The artist’s chief financial officer claims that over 100,000 Lik photographs have been sold for more than $440 million, which would make him the most financially successful fine art photographer of all time.
The New York Times, however, has called these figures into question, citing data from the artnet Price Database. At auction, Lik has never sold for more than $15,860—a price that was achieved for Ghost, a color version of Phantom, at a 2008 sale. That is his only sale thus far that has brought in more than $3,000. So where are all these big sales numbers coming from?”