1) Move to NYC, get a job working for a near blue-chip artist. Look for one with the fewest assistants. Accept $20 an hour.
2) Go to art openings, sign your name in every gallery guest book and attend every after-party.
3) Have a studio, and get your friends, employer and his gallery contacts to visit
4) Start showing your work, or repeat steps 2 and 3 until someone shows your work.
5) The ball is now, rolling. To add some momentum do the following:
- Curate a summer show at a gallery somewhere
- Upgrade your studio to someplace people like to visit.
(Dark wood floors, on the waterfront in Red Hook, Brooklyn perhaps) Throw good parties.
- Grow a lumberjack beard. Or, only shop at comme des garcons. Or thrift-store jeans and a white T, for all occasions.
6) Make friends with writers and critics. (Their needs are human, just like yours)
7) Get shown, written about, and finally get collected.
8) Now...this is the part where most artists discover how life as a successful artist is actually appalling. You'll need to socialize with and be popular among some very wealthy, but ultimately superficial people who treat you and your art as a certificate of their cultural sophistication.
9) If you have made it this far, and still want to continue, you probably have what is takes to be a successful modern artist whose work will appear at auction in a few years. Just keep in mind -- you'll receive none of those auction proceeds, and there's no promise you'll every go to auction again.
How is all that any different than what the rest of us do to grow our business? Seems to me like the process of building a business doesn't differ by industry as much as people might think.
Now, if we think that art SHOULD be different, that is a completely valid (and possibly more interesting) question.
Art is a black swan industry where compensation for effort is a lottery ticket. Only the fringe of "wantrepreneur" culture comes close to extracting as much effort for equally uncertain reward... And even then the efforts develop and demonstrate skills (tech and business) which can be transferred to low risk / well paid jobs. Artists who don't become famous can't recycle much of the investment.
However, to be a top future artist: say and do stuff which is super controversial to your art friends. Have an actual vision, be fanatic about it and avoid everyone except those who are truly interested in what you do. You'll probably die penniless even when you're supremely gifted.
This is because you need everyone who meets you or sees you to say "oh, that guy with the lumberjack beard, that's so-and-so."
I know a couple artists who have been doing this successfully for 20-odd years. One has a funky haircut and always wears a bright yellow jacket. Great artist though.
You can also do it with things other than your hair and wardrobe. A certain German artist made it big and for the first 10 years or so had:
A) only one size of painting
B) a reputation as "painfully shy"
C) uh, Germanness (German painting was and is A Thing)