Tag Archives: California Painters

Gage Taylor, California Visionary Artist and My Art Master from a World before the Internet

Tropical Dream has been part of my private art collection for over two decades. I apprenticed as a painter with Gage Taylor for 4 years, served as an USIA Art Ambassador with him for the US State Department, and we collaborated professionally on canvas for many years under the signature Taylor Dana.

In his lifetime, Gage’s work was exhibited nationally in the Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Huntsville Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, The Haggin Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum.

Internationally it was exhibited with the Paris Biennale, the India Triennale, and Ortona, Italy.

Our collaborative work was featured in The Egyptian Rosicrucian Museum In San Jose, Ca and what is now the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Internationally Taylor Dana was exhibited at The National Museum of Art in Jamaica & the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.

Gage Taylor (1942-2000) was considered one of the six originators of an art genre known as California Visionary Art. (Visions, Walter Hopps, Pomegranate Press). California Visionary art followed the poster art craze made popular by record covers. These artists made history and changed the course of art. Twelve of Gage Taylor’s early works were printed as posters by Pomegranate Publishing; including ”Mescaline Woods” and ”The Road”. Artweek’s David Clark estimated that Taylor’s reproductions (and those of his compeer Bill Martin) “are on millions of walls throughout the western world.” They were profiled in publications as varied as Newsweek & Omni Magazine.

Visions by Walter Hopps
“Visions” featuring Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. This book was about the original California Visionary Art Movement.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas as Dennis Gage Taylor, he received his BFA from University of Texas, Austin (1965). Gage graduated with an MFA from Michigan State University (1967) where he later taught sculpture and drawing.

In 1969 he married his high school sweetheart and moved to California. He started working at the San Francisco Academy of Art. San Francisco was still in a post-coital summer of love phase and Gage spent hours smoking pot, dropping mescaline, and communing with the Nature Spirits. He was an avid meditator, and loved hiking and painting in nature every week. This is the time that most influenced his early work.

Ironically, Gage could not sell one painting as long as it was signed “Dennis Taylor.” In meditation, he was guided to legally drop his first name. He did, and within a year, Gage Taylor was internationally known as a painter.

Gage had his first One Person Show in 1970 at the San Francisco Art Institute. (He taught there in 1971 for one year). He also published the first of 14 posters (The Road, Pomegranate Press). In 1974 Taylor became a biographee in Who’s Who In American Art and Who’s Who In the West.

 

The Road Gage Taylor
The Road by Gage Taylor (from the book Visions). Oil on Canvas.

By 1975 he was featured in the Paris Biennalle at the Museum of Modern Art (“Mindscapes From The New Land”) in Paris, which went on to tour Germany. His “Baja” exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was also in 1975 as well as his participation in “Hanson Fuller Gallery Pays Tribute to the Art Institute”, San Francisco.

In 1976 Gage’s work was included in the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC. (“California Painting and Sculpture”). This exhibit had traveled from The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.(California Painting and Sculpture,1976).

1977 brought his work to the Huntsville Museum of Fine Art in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Modern Era-A Bay Area Update”) and he was featured in the July 11,1977 issue of Newsweek.

Gage’s paintings were also included in the India Triennalle (“California Visionary Art”) and his work then travelled as a group exhibition through Nepal and Japan.

In 1978 he began a two-year project painting California’s Endangered Landscape Series under sponsorship of the Oakland Museum of Natural Sciences Guild. His work was also featured in “Vision Quest” at the Hall of Flowers, San Francisco.

Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor
Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor, Oil on Canvas, Part of the California Endangered Landscape Series.

In Sept of 1979 Gage Taylor’s “Holy Grove” was the first art centerfold featured in Omni Magazine. “Holy Grove” was later included in the touring exhibit “Artists of Omni Magazine” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in 1980.

Holy Grove by Gage Taylor
Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In 1981 his work was included in a group show at James Atkinson Gallery in Houston, Texas and later in the year Gage’s work traveled to Ortona, Italy in an exhibit called “The Soft Land”.

Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor
Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The Nasty Bits: In 1982 Marin County was declared a State Disaster Area as rainstorms devastated the area. The irony of this was it was the very day Gage and his first wife decided to divorce. Unknown to Taylor, a swollen mountain stream by his home had created a dam of debris, turning a forest of Bay Laurels into battering rams.

The dam gave way and destroyed the house with Taylor, his wife and their two children inside. They all survived, but his wife was left a quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Gage and his children never recovered from survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress from the event. It was a physical and financial blow that Gage Taylor would never really recover from. It was this single event that eventually led to Gage and I painting together years later. It also began a more spiritual path for Gage in his art.

Part two of Gage Taylor’s life begins when we meet and I became his apprentice. (He had many apprentices that went on to have very successful art careers).

In 1983 Gage was invited to participate in an exhibit the San Rafael Civic Center in CA called “The San Geronimo Valley Artists”. He was also invited to participate in a similar themed exhibit at The College of Marin Gallery (Kentfield, CA) called “Artists of the San Geronimo Valley”. I was a student studying Sculpture and Museum Management and helped launch the exhibit. Gage and I met when I was receiving artwork and filling out insurance information for the exhibit. I had been a huge fan of Gage Taylor from his cards and posters going back to when I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany in the 1970’s. I invited him to participate in an upcoming exhibit I was curating at the College of Marin Gallery called, “Crystal Energy”. He invited me to be his student. (1983-1987)

Crystal Energy (1983) was a major exhibit about rare quartz crystals that heal from the Scientific, Metaphysical and the American Indian points of view. Many internationally known artists and speakers were featured. I took a chance and included 3 small pieces of my art in the exhibit.

Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor
Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The owners of The Illuminarium Gallery discovered my work and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. (They also cloned my exhibition in several of their future galleries).

Long before adding me, The Illuminarium represented Gage’s individual work from 1978 to 1988. Gage and I both exhibited regularly in their galleries in Marin, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.

Gage and I began collaborating together in 1984. We painted in his style on the same canvas. We were both only children and working together was an effective and pleasant way for me to learn. It allowed him to teach me and increase his income with our additional work. (Our gallery represented both of us and people liked the collaborations). Although it was an intense way to learn, I retained my own distinct voice as an artist.

In 1985 Gage Taylor’s work was in the Hall of Flowers exhibit “Bay Area Regionalists” in San Francisco, “Artists of the Bay Area -1945 to Present” at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, and  “100 Vows of the Sun” at the Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco. (My work was also included in this exhibit).

At this time our collaborative work was featured in the gallery scenes of Shirley Maclaine’s mini series based on her best selling book, Out on A Limb (1986). It was also the first year our collaborative work was listed in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (1986) and in Art Diary, Perugia, Italy (1986).

Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana
Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana. Oil on Canvas.

By 1988 Gage and I decided we wanted work that would be a synergy of our mutual interests. Both of us had studied all the world’s religions and mythologies, we both were meditators that honored the unseen worlds in our work. Based on archetypes that repeat in the East, the Middle East, and the West, Taylor-Dana was born.

Enlightenment and Purrsuasion by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana
Enlightenment and Purrsuasian, Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriel Dana) Oil on Canvas.

These collaboration took on a life of their own at the Art Awards 88 (1988) National Competition in Bellevue, Washington (now Bellevue Art Museum).

Nocturne by Taylor Dana
Nocturne by Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriél Dana) Oil on Canvas. Entry into Art Awards 88 Competition.

Later, an exclusive retrospective of the Taylor-Dana work was given in 1993 at the Rosicrucian/Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA named “The Mythic Image”. (A limited edition poster of the painting “Honoring the Goddess” was printed for the Exhibit).

The Mythic Image by Taylor Dana

Our collaborative work was sold at the Illuminarium Gallery & Isis Rising Galleries in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Santa Monica, and Tampa; Center Art Galleries in Honolulu, Hawaii & multiple locations on Maui, Hawaii. Dyansen Galleries, Maui, HI. Our work was also sold through Addi Galleries on Maui, HI & Fine Art Collections in Kona, HI.

Valley of Light by Gage Taylor
Valley of Light by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In Hawaii the Taylor-Dana work was commissioned for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kauai, and Gage Taylor was commissioned to paint 15 watercolors for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 1988. During this time we became Art Ambassadors for the Arts America Program for the USIA (part of the U.S. State Department) (1987). We toured and exhibited work through the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, & Guyana) in this invitational post assisting the creative community. We also had an exhibition of our work at the Brazilian Embassy as it was near Guyana. One of our gouache paintings (Two Tigers) was acquired for the International Collection of the Jamaica National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.

We moved our studio to Sausalito, CA in 1990. Our work was represented at Hanson Galleries in Sausalito, LaJolla, & Carmel, CA., Eaton Galleries (Sausalito), Sierra Galleries, Tiburon with work represented on Maui, HI by Addi Galleries.

From 1991 Gage Taylor and I were represented by Conacher Galleries on Maiden Lane in San Francisco until Don Conacher’s death.

Conacher Galleries brochures for Taylor Dana
Conacher Galleries (Maiden Lane, San Francisco) brochures for Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana)

In addition to Gage’s dozen posters with Pomegranate Press, Taylor’s work was published on 75 Art Cards (50 with myself) with Visionary Publishing, Queens Cards and Milk and Honey Publishing. Taylor cards were published by Pomegranate Press as well as one billboard for National Tire Company (I had a billboard for Relax America Music label). His work was also used on a National ad for Boise Cascade Company, several magazine covers, and other creative works and prints.

Gage Taylor wrote one children’s book Bears at Work (Chronicle Books) and had written 4 young adult books & their screenplay adaptions that were unpublished at the time of his death.

Bears at Work by Gage Taylor
Bears At Work by Gage Taylor, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Late in 2000 Gage Taylor, who had never been ill, was diagnosed with 4th stage Prostate Cancer. Four months later he was gone.

Photo of Gage Taylor by Uriel Dana
Photo of Gage Taylor taken by Uriél Dana in Sausalito 3 months before his death.

It’s hard to describe what its like when you lose someone who has touched every part of your life for 17 years. My 3 oldest friends suddenly died during the same time period. I went into a traumatic shock and grief kept me from painting a long time. Tropical Dream was Gage’s idea of Heaven. For me to move on to my own version of Heaven I am letting go of his. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in adding this painting to your collection.

What is the Difference Between an Art Dealer, an Art Broker, and an Art Agent?

© 2015 Uriél Dana.

Recently I posted an article on “Common Sense Rules for finding an Art Agent”. A fellow artist asked me a great question. What is the difference between an art dealer, an art broker, and an art agent?  Perhaps my answer to her would be of interest to more than one person.

Based on my 30 years as an artist, an art dealer is a gallery owner. They discover, nurture, advertise, and promote their own “stable of artists” based on their personal taste. (Stable is a term galleries use to refer to the collection of artists they represent).

Art brokers are usually specialists in a particular field; 17th century Italian Drawings or 19th Century Hudson River School, etc. They advise auction houses or help museums organize exhibits assembling work. They help locate additional pieces for large private collections. They are experts on the authenticity of pieces and and advise on current interest work for investment purposes. Brokers often set up an escrow account for multiple clients that are purchasing for investment, a $50 million dollar Monet for example. The work is authenticated by the art broker and possibly stored in a vault till it is resold.

Most of the art agents I have met are former gallery employees or owners whose clients came to trust them enough to know their taste. Often that gallery has closed but the consultant has retained a relationship with the artists represented or their clients. The agent finds artists whose work is in a style they think their client would like they facilitate the sale for a commission. They often place art commercially through designers or architects.

Occasionally one of these fields will cross over into another but that is unusual. A personal example involved a famous rock star who had used a particular art broker for many investments over the years. He had seen an art card of mine of an oil painting co-created with the late Gage Taylor. He called the broker, described our collaborative art. He described us as a husband and wife that painted together on the same canvas and thought we lived in Sausalito. He paid her a fee to locate us based on that information and to arrange a private showing.  This may sound glamorous but he actually turned out to be a bit of a jerk that overstayed his welcome. (Ruined his music for me forever).


Artwork:The Two Antoinettes, Oil on Canvas © 2016 Uriél Dana.

The Marriage of Art & the Erotic: Together Again

©2017 Uriél Dana

When an artist stops painting, it does not mean they’ve stopped making art. It usually just means they’ve said all the can say on a particular subject.

Life can strike us with an experience and a new series of work can be birthed to the world in an instant. Painting a series can sometimes be the only way out of being emotionally frozen. For example, Picasso entered his Blue Period after a close friend committed suicide.

In 1995 I flat-lined during a surgical procedure. I found myself in 16th century Bengal India, dying from a fall down a flight of stairs. The details of that out of body journey were life altering for me. I began dreaming in Sanskrit and Chinese; could understand the lyrics of any language in song; could suddenly play a tamboura; chant in mantra; and I could smell when people were about to die. I also started painting miniatures, Left-handed. Did I mention I am Right handed?

The miniatures I painted (and the accompanying poems I wrote) were, unknown to me, a specific genre of work called “Sringara Rasa” and that is how I still refer to the series.

Sringara (spelled shringara in ancient times), is a Sanskrit word that means “erotic”, and rasa refers to the “flavor” or “mood” of an art form. Sringara Rasa refers to the way in which we reach love or ecstasy that is both human and divine. I began trying to blend this Eastern concept into a Western format in my work.

The art tradition of Hindu miniature painting came out of the 14th century renaissance in Central India and continued to thrive into the early 19th century. The Mughal Empire had destroyed medieval Hindu kingdoms and history begins to see the emergence of indigenous literature enter the mainstream of society.

Prior to this renaissance, the priests and nobles controlled all exposure to these great spiritual epics. (They were the only ones who understood Sanskrit).

These stories captured the minds and hearts of people, especially the love between the celestial lovers, Krishna and Radha. Radha was Krishna’s favorite consort and she became transfixed by a passionate obsession for him. To me, the allegory was clear: Radha and Krishna represent the Shiva and the Shakti, the male and female aspects of ourselves, longing to reunite with one another.

Krishna and Radha’s love inspired great art, poems, and music and marked the beginning of devotional Bhakti cults. (People who attached themselves to a personal deity).

Many of these stories inspired their followers to live out their lives in imitation of these Gods. The painters of the time found their subjects from these great poems. Many were inspired by the work of the twelfth-century Bengali court poet, Jayadeva.

As a person who loves living surrealists, I became inspired, no, obsessed, by the people who embodied the divine grace and ecstatic love of these Bhakti cults.

One of my favorite stories was of a young prince, Raja Savant Singh of Kishangarh (1699-1764), who abdicated his throne and became a poet and painter. He ran off with the courtesan-poetess Bani Thani, and they lived out their lives re-enacting the lives of Krishna and Radha at Brindaban, the holy city associated with Krishna. His brother may have taken the throne, but this young prince became quite well known under his nom de plume as a poet, Nagari Das, and the beautiful Bani Thani still lives in his paintings that survive.

When I finished the first painting of this series, “Together Again”, I felt it need a poem with it, so I wrote one. Each additional painting had an accompanying poem. I later discovered that the form of poems I was writing was classic 16th century Bengali love poetry in the tantric tradition.

My research led me to a 16th century princess that had been born in Rajasthan and was to be the first Hindu queen of medieval North India. She was widowed before her husband, the heir apparent, took the throne. Her name was Mirabai, and she was the embodiment of Bhakti.

At a young age, Mirabai had experienced a spiritual transmission, or murti, from a statue of Krishna presented to her by a wandering and low-caste ascetic. She became so connected to her God that he was with her always in a kind of “spiritual marriage”. She wrote over 400 poems and created a type of devotional song now known as bhajans.

Although Mirabai’s in-laws persecuted her for her spiritual beliefs, and she was highly controversial, she was revered by her peers and honored by kings in her lifetime. Mirabai had everything, but chose to live the life of a yogini.

As a painter, a poet, and a practitioner of Tibetan Dream Yoga for decades, I could not end this series until I understood everything about this art form in history. It reflected something very personal to me in my own awakening. Mirabai’s poems speak of someone who understood the inter-dimensional quality of dreams, and she often wrote of her lover Krishna visiting her in these worlds. There is a line from one of her poems that still wrenches my heart when I hear it; “I slept for a moment, the Beloved appeared, when I rose to greet him, he was gone. Some lose him sleeping, I lost him awake….”


Painting: Together Again, by Uriél Dana, oil on board, 8″ x 14″, 1996

Together Again © 1996 Uriél Dana

I have a kingdom deep within

Where the veils of illusion

are pale and thin.

Light and dark merge into grey,

And love and ecstasy begin

their stay.

The King and his Queen

are equal here.

We know only love,

no pain or fear.

Our dream is a magic carpet ride

Where all worlds are one,

and souls confide.

And when the dream is a waking one,

Will you know by my eyes

that I have come?

Artists and Money: Ending the Martyred Stereotype

© Uriél Dana 2015.

Did you know that it only became “fashionable” for artists to be poor during the time of the Romantics? The term “suffering for one’s art” was actually coined by an unsuccessful artist in his best-selling book to justify his lack of sales. Ironically, as an author (a different art form) he was quite successful. You know him as John Ruskin.

Artists are almost always portrayed in movies and books as slightly crazed or suffering martyrs. In art classes it was common to see students adopt this persona to get attention. Although creativity cannot help but reflect itself in its creator, the truly mad in our profession were often suffering from lead or mercury poisoning from art materials. It is unfortunate this misguided stereotype has worked its way into the mass consciousness.

Being an artist is not synonymous with being poor. All professions embody people who rise to the top of their field; as well a few that will do a bit better than average. There will also be the inevitable lump of those who do only what they must just to just get by.

The median income for an artist in the USA that consistently works at his craft is about $54,000 ($123,000 if you live in Delaware). About 20% will earn $100,000 to $200,000 per year. A tiny percent make over a million dollars a year.

To succeed in the arts requires knowing that it is a business. This includes doing all of the things for your business that would be done in any other.

Money is not the death of your art. Usually it just means we’ll have better materials, better studio, and “better weed” (if that’s what inspires you). You’ll pay more taxes, but trust me, you will sleep better.

In my article, Roll Your Own Dharma, I write about working with foreign art communities as an Arts Ambassador for the US State Department with the late Gage Taylor. We met and worked with hundreds of artists.

Over and over we observed impeccably painted work collect dust on walls and paintings rendered with unbelievably poor skill that sold like crazy.

Without fail, when we met the non-selling artists, they were angry at the world and felt the world owed them a living.

When we met the artist who’s work sold, we would encounter a joyful, spirit-filled human who loved what he was doing, loved people, and was filled with gratitude. They also had a sense of service to something larger than themselves.

The energy you are channeling as you create stays in that piece of art forever. You can paint a nice picture, but people will feel the anger subconsciously and not want to be around it, much less buy the painting.

For years I’ve been reading and studying about artists that have combined their talent, purpose, and business in equal manner.

For example, Raphael lived more like a prince than a painter. When he died he not only provided for his mistress and his friends, but many of his disciples. He provided for the restoration of one of the ancient tabernacles in the Pantheon. He also left money to commission a marble statue of “Our Lady” for an altar that was also located in the Pantheon.

According to Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists, Leonardo DaVinci was also very generous. He fed and sheltered all of his friends, rich or poor. He sold the Mona Lisa for today’s equivalent of a million dollars and made his client pay in silver bars.

Vasari was a frustrated 16th century artist. Frustrated because he became better known for his architecture and artist biographies than his own huge body of work (again, a different art form). Through his writings we have learned that Giotto was very wealthy and managed his own business affairs. Not only was he a landowner but he also loaned money at interest like any other prosperous Florentine.

In the book 50 Great Artists we are told that paintings by Jan Van Eyck brought their actual weight in gold. This would have been a substantial amount as they were painted on heavy wooden panels.

We also learn that Rubens was a wealthy artist, diplomat, man of letters, and a collector of art.

In Late Gothic to Renaissance Painters other successful artists that put equal energy into their business affairs as they did their art are discussed. “It was said that Titian was not only a born prince among painters, but a self made prince in a commercial society. He knew his work was a form of luxury merchandise over which he had a monopoly so he naturally intended to be well paid. He had an office that he honored as much as his studio.”

This is only a handful of artists (from the 15th and 16th century) that have succeeded financially because of their talent, kindness, and love towards others. (In another article I will cover later centuries and include women artists).

I love how the Victorian painters actually worked in suits and kept office hours. Although dressing up does not seem practical for the modern working artist, perhaps it is time to embody a new image? Surgeons do not operate for a great yelp review; nor would a supermarket offer you free groceries for the experience. This doesn’t mean it won’t be hard financially at times. All businesses have difficulty in the beginning and sometimes they go through rough patches, but with persistence, they thrive.

On a more modern note, a New York based activist group called W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) has been focused on regulating the payment of artist’s fees by nonprofit art institutions. They have a manifesto that will help establish a sustainable model for best practices between cultural producers and institutions that contract their labor. There is also a W.A.G.E. group in London. Artists can join and help pave the future for fellow creatives. Nonprofits can become W.A.G.E. certified. I’ve included a link below.

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Featured Image: from the Immortal series by Toby de Silva

 

Losing Heart

© Uriél Dana 2015.

An artist I know recently threw out years of meticulously produced work. He spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for an exhibit and no one bought one piece. My heart broke for him because anyone who creates knows how vulnerable that create/share space can be.

These are my words to him, myself, and to every artist.

“Art use to make people feel the wonder of life and the connectedness of us all. With PC’s at home and on our phones, an illusion of being alone or separate has taken over.  A gluttony of digital images has made people blind and being accosted with over produced noise has made us deaf.  This psychic water boarding is raping the cultural heart from our world and in 15 years we will be planet IKEA.  Be the caretaker of your own creative treasure for the future”.

You can see more of my artwork here.

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Artwork: “Losing Heart“, Uriél Dana, ©2008.  Conté on Board

The Mystical Symbolism in a Gage Taylor And Uriél Dana Oil Painting

© Uriél Dana 2017.

Painting SymbolismGage Taylor and I rarely painted large oils. Hindsight is one of the three largest. Painted on multiple sanded coats of gesso on a surface as smooth as skin and in layers of oil glazes that create a multidimensional depth. This painting embodies every universal archetype from the East, the West, and the Middle East found in a Taylor Dana painting.

Many cultures around the world use the temple as a symbol for the body, either literally, like the great cathedrals of Europe, or metaphorically, as in the chakra system. The body or temple represented a portal to our soul in a Taylor-Dana oil.

Each of us is a temple of treasure, and as we explore that treasure, we often discover jewels within ourselves we may not be aware of. (The hidden treasure in the background).

We used carpets as the symbol for the secret doctrines, inspired by the flying carpet legends, which evolved from the use of prayer rugs.

Cats, large and small, were used in temples all around the world because of their ability to sense the non physical as well as the physical. Cheetah’s were a favorite of ours because they are the most telepathic and dog like of the feline kingdom. Joy Adamson (author of the well known book and movie, Born Free), kept and studied Cheetahs for years and revealed their astonishing personalities in a book called, The Spotted Sphinx. We embraced their character often as a symbol of the higher self.

You can see more of my artwork here.

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Artwork: “Hindsight”, Uriél Dana & Gage Taylor, ©1988.  Oil On Canvas (Gage Taylor died in 2000).

Common Sense Rules For Artists Selecting An Art Agent

© Uriél Dana 2015.

Bernard Poulin recently asked on one of Linked In’s professional art forums, how does an artist find a legitimate agent/broker to represent our work? These are a few of my rules after thirty years.

There are some common sense things to watch for.

You ask for references and check them. You also ask for their art background or experience in the arts and check those references.

Read the person’s reactions to the work. Recently someone contacted me about agenting the work but when they came from out of state spent almost no time looking at the art, let alone engaging with it. (My place is a small museum with nearly forty paintings; the artwork is framed, tagged, and lit impeccably). Ok, I think, she’s not interested. She then asked for my client list? Sorry, that’s not how it works. This was a con artist wanting my client lists to sell other artists work to my collectors.

Agents have their own clients. Ask potential agents their primary area of focus? (Example, designers for hotels, private collectors, etc). An agent will make money off their clients wanting your work. Do not give them the name of your collectors, you’ll just be losing money and clients. You do not need an agent for clients you already have. Your clients would not be so for long if they are chased by your agent trying to sell them art.

Ask directly how much of a percentage do they take?

Ask, who pays for shipping, packaging, insurance? If you not get an answer it will be because they not know their business.

Never, give anyone exclusivity.

Never give anyone your art to keep to show or exhibit. You will have no way of getting it back if they are corrupt. You also have no idea if it will be insured or hung correctly to prevent damage. Agents use imagery off of a disk and bring private clients to you. (Never ask for their phone number or details of your agents clients. You will see neither agent or client again).

Whether agent or client, art should never leave your studio until it is paid in full.

Commissions require 50% down (non refundable) and must be paid in full before leaving the studio. Most agents charge 20% to 30% (depending on how much they do) and I add this to my price.

Do not let an agent undersell your gallery or it will ruin your career. In fact, never, never undersell a gallery yourself. Not to family, not to good friends. Galleries spend years building up your reputation with exhibits and advertising, and with it, your prices. If you undercut them no one will ever pay full price again. Your current collectors will stop buying your work because you have devalued their investment. Amateurs always think no one will find out. Trust me, it will get out and finding representation will be impossible once it does.

Agents will represent “you” in many venues. What does this person tell the art world about themselves; about you? Are they a Harvey Weinstein type predator or an elegant communicator such as Meryl Streep? The agent you choose will be strongly perceived as the kind of person you are.

Last, but not least, do not expect someone to rescue you. Know your own business. My Grandfather use to say, “Oi, you must know how to do your own books before you let someone else manage your money, or you won’t know if their cheating you!”