Josh Roth, Hollywood deal-maker who was the head of UTA's fine arts division, has died, aged 40

His death comes just weeks after the opening of the agency's new gallery in Beverly Hills, designed by the artist Ai Weiwei

Josh Roth, the head of UTA's fine art division Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

Joshua Roth, who tried to bridge Hollywood and the contemporary art world by creating the “fine art division” at United Talent Agency and opening a gallery for the company known as UTA Artist Space, has died at age 40.

Roth grew up around California art collectors and collections. His father was Steven F. Roth, a cofounder of the Creative Arts Agency (CAA) and currently a trustee at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Josh Roth had formerly been on the board of the alternative arts space LAX Art and was a member of various museum councils. His wife Sonya Roth, whom he met when they were first-year students at Loyola Law School, runs Christie’s Los Angeles branch. He is survived by three young children: Anabel, Colette, and Henry.

Roth worked as an art lawyer at the firm Glaser Weil until January 2015, when he created a position for himself at UTA combining his art and deal-making expertise. His goal was to find ways to represent visual artists in film projects, licensing deals and other business activity, and his clients soon included Ai Weiwei and Judy Chicago. Most notably, he helped secure the financing for and distribution of Ai’s documentary about the international refugee crisis, Human Flow, selling the North American rights to Amazon and Magnolia pictures. He also worked closely with Ai on the new, 4,000 square-foot venue for UTA Artist Space, a former diamond-cutting facility in Beverly Hills that Roth discovered and the artist helped to redesign. After opening in July with a Colour Field paintings show, the space is scheduled to show Ai Weiwei: Cao/Humanity, starting 4 October.

“Josh was a dear man and a great colleague, and we are devastated by his loss,” UTA’s chairman Jim Berkus and CEO Jeremy Zimmer wrote in a statement. “His friendships and contributions were deeply felt.  He constantly inspired his colleagues and those he represented with his impeccable taste, thoughtfulness, creativity, and absolute dedication.  Most importantly, Josh was a wonderful man—devoted to his family, kind in spirt, and generous in every way.  UTA is heartbroken.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the cause of death as heart failure, and it is believed Roth was travelling in New York at the time, but further details could not be confirmed.