Wednesday, September 27, 2006

detroit art agent?

I had this idea today on the way to know when you are sleepily swerving out of lanes, eating breakfast and gathering the days thoughts. Wouldn't it be great if there was one person, who didn't even have to be an artist, that would essentially act as an agent for a bunch of detroit artists? Artists would pay him/her like 20 bucks a month or maybe a fee per gallery submission and they would research ny/la galleries and send out packets for the artists. Artists would have to supply art statement/resume/images though. That person would maybe get some sort of cut if the artist got a show or gallery representation else where. There has got to be someone out here that is excellent at composing things, making phone calls and sending out packets and would want to help out some artists and get a little side money? Seeing that most detroit artists have no gallery representation working for them her I think it sounds like a good idea. Or maybe it could be someone with money that wants to get involved with a more hands on approach?


Blogger elizabeth isakson said...

that is what my company,, is doing in our next phase of development!

we are creating an artists DVD of local, emerging, and national artists that we are going to send to each gallery in the Art in America Museum and Gallery Guide, as well as to new loft move-ins in the detroit area, who are on the market to buy art. we think detroit art really needs an active agency-- especially once comprised of working artists.

the call to entries will be ready in a couple of weeks and will begin mid-november and end february of 2007.

there is a $50 submission fee, and the artists chosen to be featured on The Cube DVD will have 3-5 pieces displayed, a short bio and artists statement, and a small documentary-style interview highlighting the artist's personality and studio practices.

we think it will be a great way to work as an art broker in an innovative format. email me at if you have any questions... and tell everyone.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... isn't the only one.

art agents exist. they're not a myth.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its called pimping. without all the face cutting when the hoes backtalk

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think legitimate agents charge $50 to look at a portfolio.

1:29 PM  
Blogger elizabeth isakson said...

um, it's a CALL TO ENTRIES. a submission fee is not a "portfolio view charge". the 50$ is refunded when the first work is sold, by the way, and we have a very low commission.

the end result is mass exposure on a local and national level. feel free to apply, or not.

our goal has always been to bring art to the masses, to make art accessible and affordable. the biggest drive we have is to help artists make a working living through the sale of their art.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

($50 is a little high)

Its nice that it's refunded at the first sale. Is it also refunded if the artist is not chosen for the DVD? Or, if no sales result from the DVD?

It's nice, what you're doing, but you are asking artists to pay to take a chance on a sales method that is experimental...

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann: Eastern Michigan University has a graduate (and soon, an undergraduate) arts management degree program led by a really great arts activist. While is concentrates most on theatre arts, there are a few who concentrate on visual arts, gallery management, and publication management. If you are looking for a win/win growth/growth situation, you might consider looking into hijacking one of the students and getting them on board w/ your idea. I bet you could. Otherwise, you're talking about approaching established agents which comes with it's own basket of nepetism. But, on another note, the students also have to take courses in nonprofit and individual grantwriting: they are often NOT artists in their own right and are concentrating on marketing other people's work. What a perfect fit. Keep up the sleepy ephiphanies. (furthermore, I bet Wayne or UofM have similar programs, I'm just familiar with the quality of EMU's (though, as a side note, most of the graduate students are there b/c they already work for galleries/agencies and need the degree to move up).

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone in Detroit is getting ready to launch as an art rep.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah it would be great to have someone working for in that capacity. Specially if there were positive results for all involved.

To have some royalties of sorts when your work exchanges hands in the future. I believe something to this extent happens on the West Coast.

3:51 PM  
Blogger elizabeth isakson said...

i appreciate your feedback, m. opinions help, since it is, as you said, an experimental method.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I believe something to this extent happens on the West Coast."

Umm.. you do know that there is such an entity as an art agent all over the country, right? West Coast, East Coast, Midwest.... just beacuse you're not working w/ one doens't mean they don't already actively exist in Detroit... they do. I'm perplexed by this entire thread.

It's kinda like reading "Wouldn't it be great if someone, like, set up a store where you could go and buy food instead of growing it yourself?" "Yeah, I heard they do that on the west coast... I think they call them "grocery stores". This whole conversation is so surreal. I'm going to go dig up links for you all. Shame on CCS for not preparing you. They used to have courses in the business end of things but I heard they got slopped out of the mandatory curriculum...

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CCS has business classes for artists, taught by Nancy Thayer. We include discussions on business practices, etc, in our Senior Seminars and Studio Tutorial classes.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gilda - they're not mandatory anymore, though, right? Or are they?

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some info:


Are you an Artist looking for an Agent?
Do you know the difference between an Agent, Art Consultant, Art Representative? It is best to know what it is exactly that you are looking for. Someone to advise you on your career? - Someone to help you market specific works?- Someone to go out and place your work in galleries or sell your work to private collectors? Each has his / her own slant on what they do and who they represent and why.

Art Xpo has had several artists request help in finding an agent. Surprisingly, they are not all that easy to find. Apparently it is the way they list themselves which reflects how they see themselves. The artist's terminology doesn't always fit the agent / consultant / rep's terminology.

Q: Where can I find a list of art agents who represent artists? Trying to create art and market oneself is far too frustrating. Searching website after website is not only time consuming but can also put us at risk. What are we really signing up for or will the attachment of our image really be protected? Will that "Virtual Art Museum" really protect our work? We cannot all get shows at local art galleries. Can you assist me in my search?

A: Your situation is one that many artists find themselves in. Selling art is hard enough even when someone's doing it for you, but artists without gallery representation or agents can find the task of selling their art especially difficult. The good news is that the Internet provides opportunities for selling art that never before existed. The not so good news, as you point out, is that if you ally yourself with the wrong website or agent, you can waste time, money, lose art, or end up in bad contractual arrangements. The following suggestions will help you to navigate the art agent and online jungles and locate the best prospects for selling art.

The two most important qualities of any agent you work with are that she has experience selling the types of art you make, and that she sells it on a regular basis. Evaluate any agent's qualifications not only by speaking with that agent and studying her resume, but also by speaking with at least two or three artists who she represents. You'll get the most accurate assessment of how much an agent can do for you by speaking with artists who make art similar to yours and have comparable career accomplishments.

If you've never had an agent and don't have a lot of experience exhibiting, best procedure is to work with someone locally who'll promote your art in the community or region where you live. For example, working with an out-of-town agent in a major art market like New York or Los Angeles makes little sense if you don't live in either of those cities and are just starting out. The competition from New York or Los Angeles artists is too great and the chances for your success are slim. The great majority of successful artists begin by getting reputations where they live and then branching out from there.

A couple of don'ts: Never pay an agent money in advance to represent your art, and keep initial contractual obligations to a maximum of one year, but preferably six months. Paying money in advance gives an agent less incentive to sell your art rather than more, because he's already been paid. On the contractual side, you don't want to get roped into an exclusive long-term agreement with an agent who can't sell your art. Once the agent starts selling for you, then think about extended contracts.

Locating a website where you can show and sell your art is similar to locating an agent. As with choosing an agent, you want a website that sells the type of art you make, and you want proof from the website that once you place your art online, it has a reasonable chance of selling. The great majority of successful art websites charge for showing your art or for setting up a gallery of your art, so making sure that they can sell once you pay is especially important.

Have any prospective art website provide names and contact information for several of their artists who make and sell art similar to yours. Contact those artists and find out how satisfied they are with the website's performance. Also request detailed data from websites themselves on how many pieces of art they sell and what types of art sell best. For example, a website may generate a large number of sales, but if you're an American artist who paints watercolors of flowers, and the bulk of the site's revenues come from selling sculptures by Chinese artists, you're probably not going to sell much art.

Another point to keep in mind is that the larger art websites show thousands of works of art by hundreds of artists. Before contracting with such a website, spend plenty of time on the site looking around, evaluating the quality of art that you'll be competing against, and realistically assessing your chances of selling successfully. Also find out what options these large websites offer for increasing your online profile such as featuring your gallery, placing images of your art on the home page, and so on.

Regarding copyright issues, guarding against unauthorized use of your online images is difficult if not impossible, unless you're a huge corporation using highly sophisticated and expensive software. Exercise due diligence and do what you can to make sure your images aren't used without your permission, but never use concerns over copyright infringement as an excuse for not showing your art online or anywhere else, for that matter. Remember that your art is your business card-- your single best means of advertising. The more people who see your art, whether in person or online, the greater your chances for making sales. People rarely buy art without seeing it first.

The artist makes art and once that art is made, the artist makes more; once that art is made, the artist makes more. The artist periodically shows that art to people in the art business like dealers, galleries, representatives, and agents. Some of these professionals like the art so much that they want to sell it. The artist lets them sell it, returns to the studio, makes more art, let's them sell that, and so on. The artist says, "I make art; other people sell it."

If you think that's how the art business works and how you sell art, you need to change the way you think. All artists want to sell their art, either through agents or galleries or other forms of representation. However, finding the right person or gallery to sell your art is more complicated than simply showing your art around until someone offers to manage the marketing and sales aspects your career. That rarely happens.


Anyway, you can go to the site and read the rest. It's a decent resource w/ a lot of links to useful articles. I happened to still have it bookmarked from a paper I did before I graduated. The rest of my related marketing stuff is all packed away. Google is also a great tool. Chamber of Commerce will have lists of agents/agencies, also things like, craigslist (hokey, i know), etc, etc, etc.

8:25 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

nice work m!

11:30 PM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

there was a ny group that came through detroit about 8 years ago. they put detroit artists and galleries on a cd and had it bundled with an issue of art in america that was highlighting the city.
it was a great idea, and was free to participate.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A couple of don'ts: Never pay an agent money in advance to represent your art,..."

Not even if they call it a "call to entries" and the "representation" will be nothing more than cold-mailing galleries a CD that will most likely end up in the trash with the latest AOL software?

2:07 AM  
Blogger taurus burns said...

i am occasionally asked by my mentors if i'm showing my work outside the state. it's always sounded like a good idea but like everyone else life gets in the way of making steps towards building my art career. well little sales here and there around detroit are nice but i sometimes feel there is a very low glass ceiling in this city. it's totally possible my work would be a hit elsewhere; the prospect of showing my work to a new audience in a totally different location is very enticing these days. i think the $50 cubegallery will be asking for, may be a lot for some but really it's a small sacrifice. i'm sure there are cheaper alternatives, but the point is getting the work out rather than sitting on it and whining about the lack of support or sales. what are you willing to sacrifice for your art?

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that anyone was saying you shouldn't invest in your art/sales, but $50 is a large sum for a questionable return (this is an experimental marketing approach for this company with no proven success rate or even estimated ROI).

An Anecdote: 6 months a year I budget $200 a month for submission fees (for writing contests). I do this from July - Dec. because that's the "ripe" season (i.e. big cash rewards offered by the majority of the important lit. journals) So, for $1200 over 6 months, I submit to roughly 100 poetry and book competitions. You can get published by submitting regularly (for free) BUT the list of award titles on a resume is just as important as a long list of publication. I'm very selective about the contests I enter: only established contests, only journals I would want to see my work in, only ones with a proven track record of aiding a writers' career, always ones that are a smidgeon harder than the ones I won last year.

The main difference is that for my $10-15 I ALWAYS get a copy of the winning book, even if it's not mine. Sometimes a years' subscription. So I'm really buying $1200 worth of books, and all I have to do is win 1 of the 100 contests to break even, 2 to turn a profit. I usually turn a profit, which is why I now invest $1200: a sum which has grown slowly as my method was proven (I started out entering only 10 contests a season).

There's a degree of business saavy that you have to have (in both lit. and vis.arts) to avoid being taken advantage of, because there are "editors/agents/galleries/etc." who make their living from the money from the artists, NOT the connoisseurs. You can't bet on any level of morality, no blind faith.

That being said, there are people who will work for free for a dream / an ideal, etc. My boyfriend is constantly furious with me for not charging (at all, or "enough") for freelance consultation. In his view of the world, he went to school to gain an ability (industrial design skills) which is what he sells, thus he treats it as an asset. (Here I could quote Richard Florida). He sees my Arts Marketing / Management degree as the same thing: I went to school to cultivate this skill and by "giving it away" I diminish my value.

I just see so many great and beautiful artists/writers struggling with concepts that to me are simple, common sense, and I feel-- I dunno, morally obligated. I guess I have some kind of non-profit Batman complex. If only I were backed by Wayne Enterprises (instead of just Microsoft). Lol.

Anyway, that's why I encouraged Ann (anyone) to check out EMU's students. You might just find someone else with a Batman complex and marketing saavy.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here you go: a detroit-based Batman Complex organization with collaborative marketing saavy. This was started by a good friend of mine from a past life. They have having great success on the film side of things, and even did a project-- something about storefront windows in vacaant storefronts as community gallery space?

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea! Anything artists can do to get their work more publicized! With the internet, there are just so many opportunities.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey M,
you quoted me improperly to set off your rant. It was a good rant though I guess.

"To have some royalties of sorts when your work exchanges hands in the future. I believe something to this extent happens on the West Coast."

I am suggesting a royalty payment to see that artists benefit from the re-selling of their works at escalated prices over time. I believe something to this extent exists on the west coast but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps an artist rep there would know what I am talking about?

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

baker, a thousand apologies. You're right of course, I missed the first bit of your statement. (yes, there is such a system, but it's not geographically bounded it's just a matter of how you write up your sales and contracts).

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so say if I sell three works privately this week I should created a contract for the sale that says something like ..?

".. I the artist shall recieve a 5% - 10% royalty if the artwork is sold at a greater price than its original sales price of.."

I have taken the buisness of being an artist at CCS in the past but I don't remember ever talking about this issue.

10:23 PM  
Blogger elizabeth isakson said...

well, thanks to the input on this thread, cubegallery has changed our submission fee.

i am suprised that some of you feel like offering an opportunity to market emerging artists is a way to rip people off.

my goal with cubegallery has always been to help artists make money, and i will stand by that and take it right to the bank when we sell a work. (our commission is only 30%)

our fee is now $10 a piece submitted, with 3 to 5 pieces accepted. let me also remind you that many institutuions and galleries require a submission fee for a month long show. we are going to be agressively marketing all of our pieces to a vast amount of sources for a year. when has a single month long exhibition given you that much exposure or opportunity?

if you want my business track record, please contact me.

i feel nothing is wrong with creating a company to make money as an artist... it seems more plausible than painting my heart out and then complaining when no one buys my art. i took action, and i will take action to be an advocate for artists i believe in.

i am aware that cubegallery is a start-up enterprise and that makes some people feel uncomfortable. fine. apply next year. but i stand by my company, the artists that we represent, and will do as much as i can to see emerging artists make a working living.

4:14 PM  
Blogger elizabeth isakson said...


check out out of chicago.

they have a set-up called art bay that gives and artist a % after it changes hands.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth: "I am aware that cubegallery is a start-up enterprise and that makes some people feel uncomfortable. fine. apply next year. but i stand by my company"

I am surprised that, with a statement such as this, you would then bow to public opinion and lower your fee?

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

baker - elizabeth's source is a good one. you could either work through them or find out how they write up the contract. Personally, I wonder about the ethics of that type of process. If a painting is a commodity, and you sell it for a given price, and the commodity rises in value, do you have a right to charge a tax throughout the life of that commodity? It feels/sounds like if I built a house, sold it, and then asked for a bit of the money as the house continued to appreciate. Not fair. Furthermore, as an artist you DO profit as the value of your work increases because that would mean that what you can charge for new work would be likewise increasing... I wouldn't want the homebuilder coming back and charging me fees as a third or fourth generation homebuyer, so ethically I would feel uncomfortable doing that to a purchaser of my work. But by all means you should do what makes you comfortable. That is the American way: to make as much money as possible from as little production as possible. Thats where taxes come from, afterall, the gov't wants a little bit every time their currency changes hands. And paintings are prettier than dollar bills in some respects.

The literary world right now (the big publishing houses) are struggling w/ 2nd hand book stores. More revenue is generated through used book sales than new book sales and they're trying to figure out a way to get their hands into that money, even though they had nothing to do with subsequent exchanges.

But these are really arguements for economists.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To myself as an artist forced to confront the buisness world alone these are important questions.
As an activist I look for ways to empower myself and other artists.

A royalty balances the playing field a bit more from my perspective. It insures that artists see some meager benefit from future re-sales.. The reality is that student shows are haunted by interior designers and other art opportunists to find great investments. Mid-career artists are lucky if they are supporting themselves.

You may think its talk for economists but it is funny that at the same time you are part of the art buying system and exist after art is made. You are there because of artists not the other way around. Fine Art is seen to be as one of the best forms of investment around the world. It takes I believe an entirely new approach today to stay alive and empowered.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that you weren't implying this, but I've *never* exploited artists and consider myself one of the few people to really understand that fact that without artists (writers) there is no content. (if you knew me, you would know this). One of my biggest complaints is with "1st book competitions" that pay new writers $1,000 and publish their books. The writers are geeked about the "in" to the industry, but turn the perspective and you realize that they are being taken shameless advantage of : without them, there would be no book. That is only worth $1,000? What about the authors whose work is turned into movies... they created everything that exists and are paid less than stuntmen, actors, lighting "specialists". There is no premium on the creative impetus, and much revenue generated by the resulting buzz. That's my perspective.

The gallery I am running now in Washington (Seattle suburb) gives the artists 100% of their sales, and is staying afloat by grants and private donations.

Still, royalties every time the art changes hands... It just still feels unethical. It's not that I don't value artists, I just think there's better options. I think that visual artists really underestimate the revenue generating possibilities of books and prints for the example. But, really, to each his/her own. This has been definitly a great discussion. And half of what I always say is just me being the devil's advocate.

8:33 PM  

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