Artists Market United Kingdom

Move over galleries: artists sign with agents

As Stuart Semple joins an agency that also represents models and musicians, is there a new way to sell art?

Stuart Semple has joined Next Management

The British artist Stuart Semple has signed a contract for worldwide representation with the fashion agency Next Management, a move that highlights again how the traditional artist-gallery relationship is changing. Several artists, including Damien Hirst and Keith Tyson, have agents or managers who provide financial advice and handle their business dealings with galleries, but Semple says his collaboration with Next Management will more closely resemble relationships in the music industry, where managers act as a buffer between their acts and the outside world, helping to promote their work and negotiate their projects.

Next Management, which represents hundreds of models as well as actresses such as Jessica Alba and musicians including Lana Del Rey and Jessie J, says it will help Semple to negotiate deals in the luxury goods industry, an area of increasing importance to artists.

Semple says that the task of selling his art and cultivating relationships with collectors will still be done by the galleries that exhibit his work—Anna Kustera in New York and the Fine Art Society Contemporary in London. However, Semple adds, there is room for another intermediary. “You won’t find a decent musician without a manager in this day and age. Yes, they have a record label that makes their work available, maybe advances them money to make it, but their manager stands between the artist and the label. Same with… artist, gallery and manager. There’s no real difference.”

The key question is whether or not managers can develop artists’ careers in the same way as dealers, who build reputations through years of curated shows and by successfully placing their artists’ work in museums and prestigious private collections.

Bigger picture

“It’s a model that indicates that art belongs to a much bigger picture than it ever did,” says Andrew Renton, the director of Marlborough Contemporary in London. “I’m wary [of dismissing] new models because they come up all the time. However, the gallery is still the place for a more sophisticated expertise and a longer-term focus on the artist. Art thrives on context. The reason you work with a gallery is because you want to be involved in a particular context that allows your work to be part of a wider artistic dialogue. The question is, what conversation do you want to be in?” he asks.

Semple, who regularly releases artwork on iTunes, says that Next Management will help him to extend his reach far beyond the confines of the art world. The agency has a “vision of how art can be extended in a digital age and for a new generation like mine”, he says.

Early pioneers of this type of collaboration are the California music managers Pat Magnarella and Roger Klein, who have represented the US rock band Green Day for more than 12 years, helping them to sell 75 million albums. Around four years ago, the pair started to sign visual artists. They now work with half a dozen, including the street art couple Miss Bugs, the British painter Charming Baker, the graffiti artist D*Face, New York-based Logan Hicks, and Chris Levine, whose portrait of the Queen is on the £100 note issued in Jersey to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

“I’m not interested in getting the art world to know about my artists; I’m interested in getting the world to know about them,” Magnarella told The Art Newspaper in 2009, explaining how cross-promotional projects could help to raise awareness of the artists on his roster.

Download deal

One such endeavour was the display of high-resolution reproductions of works commissioned by Hicks in the venues where Green Day performed on their 2009 US tour. The band’s fans were able to download the images to their mobile phones, thanks to a deal with Verizon.

Next month, Magnarella and Klein will host a show of paintings and sculptures by Charming Baker in a 15,000 sq. ft hangar at the Milk Studio in Los Angeles (21-24 March)—and will “promote the hell out of it”, in Klein’s words.

Four years ago, the duo were selling Baker’s work for around £1,500. After a sell-out show in 2010 in New York, where his paintings were bought in bulk by Damien Hirst, Alberto Mugrabi and Frank Cohen, the artist’s canvases now go for between £70,000 and £90,000.

Klein acknowledges that fashion collaborations, pop-up shows, iTunes releases and a successful commercial career won’t get you an exhibition at Tate Modern. He says Charming Baker will be ready to join a “major commercial gallery like Gagosian, Pace or Hauser & Wirth within two years”. If he does, “we’ll be negotiating his entry there from a position of power”, Klein says.


Miss Bugs (left, Driving Miss Crazy II, 2012) is one of the artists signed to music-business managers Roger Klein and Pat Magnarella
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Comments

1 Jul 14
16:24 CET

FRED TONES, LUDLOW

Stuart Semple's an interesting study in an artist "Going it Alone" - Stuart regularly does these large scale off site projects and deals with concepts that are so immediate that the "Established" framework of Gallery and Sales must be a hard fit, always behind with showing the current generation's work as still flogging stuff that's made it into "The History Books". As it's all on Kindle now, Stuart Semple's digital revolutionary projects just deal direct to the public in a way that galleries concerned with the bottom line could never comprehend. It looks like Stuart Semple is freeing from being stuck in academia and market concerns and able to have a fully inclusive dialogue with anyone worldwide using iTunes.

15 Jul 13
4:32 CET

DAWK, EARP CALIF.

If you can afford -it,open your own gallery: This takes an investment in time and money,so starving artists need a 'backer'...who simply loves your art.Bring in other artists if possible and see what sells.Your gallery can show several kinds of art-even 'un-art',which might sell better,than art. doing shows and self-selling-promoting is theother way.It depends on how business savvy you are. GO-for-it.....what have you got to lose?

18 Mar 13
2:30 CET

RADFORD, ROANOKE, VA

Great idea. I have been around for 50+ years and have found galleries to be fickle. The do just want your work to fill the gallery then send it back after no attempt at promotion.

1 Mar 13
20:48 CET

RADFORD, ROANOKE, VA

Great idea. I have been around for 50+ years and have found galleries to be fickle. The do just want your work to fill the gallery then send it back after no attempt at promotion.

26 Feb 13
15:14 CET

LEAH HARMUTH, NEW YORK, NY

Thanks for the interesting article. I think artists moving from galleries to dealers or agents is a great idea since galleries have only their interest--not necessarily the artist--in mind. An agent can work with a group of galleries and museums in different cities or regions. It might be hard to implement, however: where will the percentage come from?

26 Feb 13
15:20 CET

DANIEL DAVID JAEGER, TORONTO

managers, agents, gallerists .... vultures

25 Feb 13
15:26 CET

T SCOTT WILLIAMS, KINGSTON JAMAICA

It's not a new idea, especially in small art markets --- where artists don't seek representation from a particular gallery because there are so few --- artist's agents do the management and PR work so that the artist can do what they do best. No Art History degree needed, just faith in their client.

21 Feb 13
22:26 CET

SAMANTHA, NEW YORK

This article is so interesting and I will definitely be mentioning in my next blog post... The central issues at hand go beyond an artist turning to an agent. OF COURSE artists are going to turn to agents, in an art world that has developed into a price-based industry, not on aesthetics, not on perception or conceptual elements, but on who can sell-out the quickest after art school and then reproduce until the buyers won't buy anymore! Look at what has happened to Damien Hirst's worth.... reproduce, and it becomes less unique, and then everyone realizes that the original, interesting idea has become diluted as they are similarly made by the artist. I blog at pavelife.com/blog and I will be writing on this through the weekend. Very interesting.

21 Feb 13
22:26 CET

STEPHANIE SEYMOUR, PERUGIA, ITALY

Very interesting reading.

21 Feb 13
22:8 CET

MAGDA, LONDON

Great text revealing a great potential business niche in the art market. And who said Visual Arts Agents won't have the Art Historical background? How about very talented and entrepreneurial creatives with the right knowledge and experience who are fed up with the way the current structures of the art industry (esp. galleries & museums)? It obviously wouldn't work for all types of artists and art produced, but it could become a viable alternative to galleries!

20 Feb 13
18:49 CET

IAIN MACLEAN, LONDON

Andrew Renton is wise to be wary of other models, Particularly as artists are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the existing structure of middleman (galleries, dealers, curators etc.). Remember the Film Writers' Strike a few years back? The major studios were surprised at the power that our fellow creatives wielded. Many writers found alternative ways of getting their ideas financed and produced independently. The music industry is also going though a big revolution. Watch this space parasites...

19 Feb 13
15:31 CET

KATIE, WASHINGTON DC

I have been showing in the traditional gallery system for 32 years, in New York, Boston, DC and London. I have seen it change dramatically in recent years. I would love to see a crop of Visual Artists Agents rise on to the scene and do comprehensive promotion and public relations for their artist clients. Some sort of fee for service, or financial plan would have to be determined but I think it is a great idea. The best galleries use to exhibit the work, cultivate clients, promote the artist to help them get into important shows, museums, and publications. That is how they earned their 50%. Today I feel that many dealers are more like shop keepers, they bring in inventory, wait for it to sell, then if it doesn't, they send it back to the factory. Very little effort and no sweat.

19 Feb 13
15:32 CET

BIBERSTEIN MICHAEL, ALANDROAL, PORTUGAL

We need a separation of fashion-art and 'serious' art, as we have in music, with pop and classical. Today most artists and curators (and many collectors and gallerists, too) mainly want to be stars and their work shows it. The loudest ones get the attention. They obviously are fulfilling a need. But it's a different world from what art used to be: seeing and feeling. Art has become a way to escape from the 9-5 life ghetto. That's ok with me, but most of the resulting products are childish and brutish self-promotion - perfect for the fashion-world! Andy showed the way, and Jeff and Damien made it into the main highway! Personally, I prefer solitary mountain-paths...

19 Feb 13
15:33 CET

DEAN ILDEFONSE, ANNECY

Why not! Artist is the only one to decide which opportunities is good for him, innit?

19 Feb 13
15:34 CET

ANONYMOUS, HOUSTON

If Grandma Moses were around today, she wouldn't have a chance. Are we to assume the type of artists, agents are interested in, would need to meet a certain profile "package" that buyers would want to see and be scene with.

18 Feb 13
17:20 CET

ADRIANA OSPINA, BOGOTA

How much model agents know about Art, if part of a gallerist work is to know Art the history, it's progress, it's movements, do model managers know that? if their field is mainly publicity, and advertisement, and putting it clear with those kind entrepreneurships of agancies is mainly Patrick Mcmullan and Marilyn Gaulthier. welll Patrick may go back into the field of artistic photography and advertisement, but how much do they know about an installation a sculpture and all those artistic works that go beyond the 2 dimensions, which is mainly their forte. Selling a model is one thing, but selling an artist is not just selling a pretty image that does good catwalk or looks great in photographs and it's recieved by the advertisement's target, the masses. Art is really different than that it has a conceptual depth modeling does not have, or getting a photographer hired, it moves realms of intellect, art is not only a mainly on the surface aesthetical cultural phenomena. I disagree

15 Feb 13
20:16 CET

GARY ILES, BRISTOL

Sign me up !!! :)

15 Feb 13
15:12 CET

DAVID SCHMIDT, NEW YORK

There are several "agencies" doing direct artist representation and management. Vito Schnabek does this in New York and there is another in New Jersey.

14 Feb 13
17:19 CET

STAN HOLLANDER, LOS ANGELES

A must read

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