This is only partly true. Artists not only own their original, they own copyright as well. Niether ownership of the original or copyright can be reassigned without written authorization (outside, of course, work-for-hire situations).
If, on the other hand, you mean that the patron owns the artist, I would say, "so what? It has been ever thus." The vatican "owned" Michelangelo, Giotto, Raphael, etc. It didn't seem to hurt them much. Patronage is part of the artistic relationship, as is the judgment of the market.
>>Now, you may ask, how can one survive as an artist, then? And therein
lies the problem. If your art is to be your vehicle for survival, then
choose your patrons carefully, or be prepared to accept the unwritten
contract of money for your art=patron's control.
Right on! This idea that an artist is an independent agent is total nonsense - if we don't have actual patrons writing the check, we a beholden to the culture from which our work arises.
The idea of the artist is autonomous is a modern fiction that has deluded three generations of artists.
-- Mike Reed