I suppose we have to start with "what is art?" But that's a lifetime journey in itself...
There are photographers and there are artists. Skating well, doesn't make you a figure skater; baking well doesn't make you a chef; taking pictures does not make you an artist. Art is less about well you see and more about expressing what you feel.
If art is the goal then, no, gear doesn't matter too much provided you can create the art that's inside you with the gear you have. "Gear" certainly doesn't matter to the average buyer of fine prints. As photographers, we often forget that most people are attracted to the emotion of a photograph, not the pixels. I can tell when another photographer is looking at my work - they walk right up to it and pixel peep. Those who appreciate art for the emotional connection begin by just standing there, then move to one side and have another look. They might walk up to it, but not to pixel peep but rather to read the signature or the title card. Then they'll bring someone else over to validate their emotions. (I know, it sounds a bit crass, but that's what appears to be happening!)
Astute buyers will appreciate a photograph for its emotional connection, but also recognize quality craftsmanship when they see it. Perhaps this discussion is more about craft than art. From my experience, most people buying photography at weekend art shows don't recognize craftsmanship which is why so many poorly crafted photographs sell - buyers have an emotional connection to the scene.
That being said, I have what one would might call a jaded view of galleries which is often the next "level" artists aspire to. Gallery-owners place an emphasis on gear seemingly for two disparate reasons:
A. How "serious" is this photographer? (i.e. they rate the saleability of a photographer by how much the photographer has invested, after all, the gallery is going to invest as well and they want to know the artist is serious. All things being equal, the more the photographer has invested the more the gallery-owner might be willing to invest.)
Unless scenario two comes along...
B. An unknown/undiscovered "diamond in the rough" shooting amazing stuff with a sexy new gadget like an iPhone. Again - that translates into sales because it's a human interest story and can become a "project" of the gallery-owner, a "discovery" if you like.
Is it art? - no more or less than any other quality photography. But who said the gallery world is about art. It's as much about sales as the camera gear industry, but at least most gallery owners recognize superior craft.
Remember - "it's not what ya got... it's what you do with what ya got". So, in the hands of an artist, the same scene will turn out entirely different from the average photographer, irrespective of equipment. It's all in the eye and your ability to use the tools you have (visual design elements, gear, darkroom/lightroom) to recreate what you saw and felt at the moment. Once you have a well-crafted photograph, it's now up to marketing as to how well that photograph becomes formally recognized as "art". In the meantime, keep working on your craft.