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The Art Business
bad experiences
11 May 06 14:42 IST

Ok, I'm Tommaso, I feel to write down this experience I had. About two and a half months ago I was invited by a gallerist to Venice, I could stay in his beautiful house for a month to paint. This guy was not there, he was in NY trying to open a gallery over there. I obviously went to Venice and spent a month painting. It was three artists together. Spent a really nice time. While I was there the NY guy asked me to make a website for his new gallery in Ny, which I did, asking him a symbolic amount of money for the job. He did not pay, inventing excuses each time I asked him for money. I had to sign a contract with him, but he was in NY an I wanted his signature on papers; I asked him to sign the contract and send it to me, so I could sign it and send his copy back. He delayed everything and I had to make a choice: I could either wait the signed contract and send the paintings to his gallery in NY paying charges myself, or take advantage of a container that was leaving venice for NY at his expenses. I've chosen the second. After I came back to Rome, I kept asking for my money. He started accusing me and the other guys in the house of having stolen things from his house. Well, obviously I didn't, nor the others, I'm completely sure. He said that he would keep the money he had to give me untill the venice problems will be solved legally (He is telling me that now there's a lawyer that is taking care of everything, and that he is going to sue everybody in the house for his stolen stuff). Now I'm in a damn mess, I didn't and probably will not see any money, and he has seven paintings I've done, without a contract that protects me. This is really frustrating, and I'm really wondering if it is worth to enter this so called 'art business' or if it is better to just keep the act of painting for myself, organizing my own exhibitions by myself, as it's always been. And anyway, always be VERY VERY VERY CAREFUL, 'cause i feel I've been unlucky, but I also feel that there's thousands of people like this guy hanging around.

12 May 06 08:30 IST

Tommaso... shit, what an terrible experience.  I'm sorry about the apparant "loss" of those seven works.  I don't understand how this guy operates - do you think he just wanted as many pictures out of you before finishing the relationship?  It's a pretty odd thing to do - when instead he could be acting as the dealer for all your work?  Did he ever get that NY gallery up and running?  Maybe you need to go a talk with him face to face to try work things out amicably?

Many thanks for sharing this with us - as a warning.  I presume some people are making lots of profit on the naievety of inexperienced artists.  So heads-up guys!

I think artists themselves should try to occupy this area of selling art.  I'm sure it can be done in a manner that is commercially viable.  We've got to channel some of that creativity into marketing somehow.  Done as a group, something would be possible.

Coming back to your problem, I suggest you go see that dealer guy.  If he values your work so much (that is, he can make money on it), it would make better sense for him to repair the relationship.

01 Mar 07 16:28 GMT

sorry I am picking this up now , I am a newcomer.
I am sorry for the bad experience. they happen, they are real, I can't count mine. the most common are galleries ripping you off: not paying, not respecting the contracts, keeping the paintings, disappearing etc...
which leads me to Jean-Paul answer: I believe as well that we should take care of our own business and our works. a group would be much better organized as we neeed several skills to do this.
I just got ripped off on a website. I had qited so long to have my own. Got a webmaster who charged me 500 euros . I was very specific as to what I wanted, and showed him examples. I could not make him do what I wanted. It dragged 6 months and I gave up.
We are trained to hear that artists are useless businesswise and that they should let others take care of that. It is BS, the galleries are elitists and that is not necessarily what we want. We want to share ourselves. We are creative and may have some answers. why do we let the stupid guys run our lives or ruin them?

20 Apr 07 12:29 IST

I confirm : the interest of Critics or Galleries only is their intention and business: obvious and naturally.
But the question is violent when this arts agent simple and shameless "steal" the work of art. As my happened experience.
So: I repeat and advise :Attention please:
1- DAvid Conenna Agent in Milan, no return my sculpture "Dama Distesa" 1984.
2- Terino Romagnoli Agent in Il Quadrato Gallery, Cesenatico, Italy, IDEM my sculpture " Uomo dei due Mondi" 1984.

12 Mar 08 20:15 GMT

In the past sometimes we had some discussions about the sense or nonsense of political art. All of you know that I would not put my effords into political art for I think that it is completely useless. Instead one better joins a political group or party to fight for what one thinks should be fighted for.

But what I think to be useful is to fight for our own interests as artists and the circumstances we are working in.

What I have in mind when talking about this are those more and more upcoming wheelings and dealings when it comes to exhibitions. It’s not only those „vanity“ galleries that let you pay for an exhibition and pay for the advertising etc. but those galleries or institutions that demand one of your works to be donated to their collections. I first learned about this system in connection with that so called gallerist from Trapani, Dino Serra. Then from that Diart Museum in Trapani run and owned by the catholic church but made out of 100% donations from artists.

Of course this is not illegal for there are no laws protecting artists. And therefore it’s not criminal in a legal sense of the word. But I think it is criminal in a moral sense of the word. It is a specially mean and ruthless version of exploitation and the only way to fight this „imperialistic“ action seems to be to boycott these galleries or institutions. And maybe reporting such practice to websites like artprocess to warn artists of getting in touch with these galleries and establishing a moral codex this way.

12 Mar 08 21:28 GMT

I think Hanjo is perfectly right as far as private galleries practicing this system are concerned. Especially those that choose the work themselves and most times demand one of your best or most expensive. And yes, I think it is criminal to have you pay all these huge amounts of money, we have all heard being asked from, usually unknown, young artists through deceiving e-mails, saying that they saw their work on the internet and would like to have it at this or that Art Fiera or Festival or whatever massive show where you have to pay, say, thousands of euros for a few square metres you never know you will really get. I for one, have received hundreds of these e-mails.

On the other hand there are public institutions. Like Municipalities’ Cultural Centres for example, that offer the opportunity to artists, to show their work, in well kept, secure public galleries, publicizing the event, printing invitations on behalf of the town, without interfering with their sales (we all know that private galleries usually ask for about 50%, which makes it extremely difficult for artists to keep their prices at affordable heights and actually sell), without charging fees in order to enter any selection, offering stuff to attend opening hours etc. Often, they ask for a work of the artist’s choice in return (this might be a work on paper, an engraving, anything the artist might feel comfortable with giving).
I find this not that shocking, if not actually fair. One might argue that it is a way of building up collections, easily, fast and above all for free. This is true. But most times these collections serve to create small museums, property of the city, open to the public. Often catalogues are printed with the works of the collection (not a bad thing for one’s curriculum) or events are organized to attract visitors.
In these cases and, I repeat, only these, I tend to think that this practice can prove even beneficial, especially to young artists who have to struggle their way through the art market ugly business. Of course, successful artists who have made their way and are already being promoted may as well pass.

Myself, I have already had two one man shows in two different municipal galleries and was politely asked to leave a work of my choice behind. I still owe them a work for my last show in 2006.

12 Mar 08 22:08 GMT

I imagine most of us are in agreement with you Hanjo. That "mean exploitation" you describe so well we've all experienced, and continue to do so all too often.
It never fails to make me angry seeing artists I know and respect, who generally use up all their energy and resources in the pursuit of their art, to then be told by some grasping trader (who probably isn't even interested in the work) that they have to find the money to finance a show.
One of the reasons artprocess was setup was precisely to give artists a place to show their works at no cost, without having to fight with advertising banners, and especially without creating friction between those individuals who are *much* more likely to assist one another, than to compete.
As you well know, we then tried taking this idea one step further with our international meeting and collective show last year in Sicily. Unfortunately, it turned out a disaster from an organizational and lack-of-finance point of view, but on the level of assisting one another, I think it proved to be a exercise confirming a shared and understood identity of the artist, despite our different cultural backgrounds and the adversity we faced.
So what are we left with? We think the fight is worth undertaking, and probably we now think the COLLECTIVE fight is the only way - despite the marketing cliche branding we have of the lone, individual artist. I would say that perhaps from a general society point-of-view that lone, suffering cliched individual exists, but looking at the specific society of artists, it's not true at all - we look out for each other, and are committed to assisting and advising in all manner of ways, as can be observed each day on this site.
I have no solution yet, but other than the blacklisting of malpractice you suggest (which practically is very useful, but still a negative exercise), I feel we have no option but to somehow represent, present, and sell ourselves as a group, and to do so ourselves - where we take on the role of art dealer, critic, and publisher ourselves. In my opinion, we have to do this maintaining the openness of artprocess - anyone who says he/she is an artist should be allowed in, and it is up to the group to nuture and help the individual (beginner or otherwise) become confident and develop the potential within.
I'm quite confident that in time we will figure out how to realize this enterprise. I'm amazed that we still show up here now and again after so much disappointment. And always with a word of advice, encouragement or humour. In this way, I believe we've passed the test of Trapani, and having done so can begin to focus on our experience, intelligence, creativity, and above all - our solidarity, to propose a new future venture - the format of which is now still unknown, but I'm sure will be formulated and realized (successfully this time!) by us at some point in the future.

12 Mar 08 22:46 GMT


I agree that artist's need to stick together, but there still seems to be some elitist artist's going around ruining it for us all. We do need to break away from the people and situations that are not productive, the problem as Tomasso discovered is that it is not always easy to figure out who that is. I do hope that ArtProcess will have a new event and we will all be able to come together in the spirit of a true artist community and in the true spirit of furthering each other's creativity.