I've just seen a most thought-provoking and entertaining movie.
The Price of Everything is a documentary by Nathaniel Kahn, recently released for streaming on HBO.
Interviews with artists, collectors, dealers and critics help us to understand the reality of art as commodity. Much as we may disdain the idea of paintings selling in the hundreds of millions of dollars to private collectors, the fact is that one-percenters have a lot of money to invest, and many of the super-rich see art as part of a well-rounded investment portfolio. Museums do not have the funds to acquire art at these prices, and so the artworks are lost to the public. Owners are reluctant to donate their work to museums, even with a tax benefit, if they think the paintings will only end up in storage.
In most cases of hyper-inflated sale prices, it is not the artists who are making money; much of the action happens in the secondary market of auctions. In fact, if an artist's work is subject to a suddenly inflated sale price, it can actually sabotage her/his career, as the prices may not be sustainable. The artist is then deemed to be "old news".
I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in how art intersects with society.