Nothing is free in a free market field. More importantly, free market has nothing to do with freeing contemporary artists. In fact, it may even constrict or worse, manipulate, exploit and slave them. Its does not imply a free world either. It is a fluctuating and very unpredictable field, at the mercy of speculation (sometimes referred to as bubbles) and ambiguous valuation, making its players aggressively opportunistic (if not manipulative), always nervous, easily agitated and threatened, insecure, suspicious and mostly, envious. It is not a level playing field. It is where everything is reduced into cultural production based on global, regional and local economic meta-structure.
The question is not about who is in control of the structure, but how fluent and efficient one is in surviving, exploiting and benefiting from it. The actual 'players' are those who are fluent with the 'rules of play', economics, control and domination of capital flow, manipulation of speculation and valuation, market fluctuation, law (and how to bend them), finance, investment, business strategies, branding, value proposition, image making, promotion and strategic positioning. It is a field that yields its own linguistic paradigm, in which the cultural production (contemporary artworks) are articulated, talked about, and given economic signification. Such linguistic paradigm that regulates the discourse of art market is fundamentally controlled by the above-mentioned 'players', not the artists. Nonetheless, the 'players' are often veiled, mostly by rhetorical strategies (by hired 'experts') that highlight the pertinence of the artists and their artworks.
Welcome to the contemporary art playing field.