Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 2009, financial newspaper and acrylic on canvas
I created this page for all those who have shared their stories, and for all of those who have not. Exploitation in the art world has been a widespread problem for long enough. Artists deserve to make art and be protected by the system we support.
For this I am excited to be working with SmartStamp – a new standard for art authentication and protection in the art world, which uses computer vision and AI, secured with eco-friendly blockchain time-stamping technology, to create immutable, digital fingerprints of objects of art in order to verify their authenticity – simply with a smartphone or any light environment. Check out the demo video in my blog post!
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this page are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Gordon Cheung and Gordon Cheung Studios.
“I had a similar situation around the same time but with a Danish gallery I had worked with and trusted for a number of years, until one day he liquidated the gallery owing me just under £50000 and other artists too! The owner had been paying himself a good salary up until the end but was able to walk away leaving the gallery stripped of all assets. It took a few years for me to fully realise just how much it had affected me but I struggled to make work for a while and my trust in working with new galleries took a big hit.”
– Simon Keenleyside
“Already as a student in Munich, I heard similar stories (Germany, NY and London) including my own, as a young artist it was a terrible experience. It's just awful and unfair.”
– Alma Tischlerwood
“This happened with a sculpture of mine that was shown in an LA gallery which has since closed down. I was never paid and cant get a response.”
– Christopher Cuseo
“On a smaller scale this is something that is all too familiar to me. Works that are never quite returned, despite endless vague promises... or return broken because of total negligence, with no notion of recompense.”
– Fiona MacDonald
“I remember many years ago that there were problems with a gallery in the UK, I think they went bust and never paid the artists the money for sales and failed to return work. They also reappeared the next year."
– Jose Snook
“‘A hazard of the business’ is how a big collector who had recently acquired some of my work, attempted to reassure me when I lamented a gallery I worked with in Rome had sold some work and never paid me, still 5 years later. Behaving like children with repeated promises to pay and then never doing so, and constant ‘the dog ate my homework’ level of excuses. The frustration of the unregulated art business which never favours the artist it seems, who put their trust and sometimes years of work in the care of other people. They should be teaching how to file small claims at art schools unfortunately. And it just seems that every artist I speak to who has been around the block has similar stories. It really makes me appreciate the good people who I am able to work with."
– Nicholas William Johnson
“I have a similar thing with paintings from a solo exhibition in Perth Australia- although the guy refused to give them back and then went into liquidation and gave all my paintings to the liquidators as payment 🙄 nice guy! He’s since opened up another gallery elsewhere. Unbelievable!"
– Sarah Harvey
“Many years ago 2-3 of my larger pieces were sold and I never received payment. He also had the rest of my work from the show and, in order to get it back, I had to go back to that city and camp out on his car!! Even then, he tried to give me another artists work in payment. This isn’t an isolated incident. It is a totally unregulated business and anyone can hang up a shingle.”
– Kathryn Maxwell
“Big or small operations. Never received payment for work sold at the end of an artist residency. Work I had left on display I was told was mailed to me but I never received it. The gallery owner never followed through with a post office receipt. Had to chalk it up to a learning experience. He is out of business.”
– Marissa Vidrio
“I actually saw that a piece of work of mine had sold at auction a few years ago......did l hear a dickie bird about it...no! Those of us who have determinedly stuck to our practice should not be treated so despicably.”
– Ashley Davies
“I have a particular sore spot for art theft having lost a piece locally decades ago (had to ransom it back), but thankfully the artist(s) in question are now cancelled so it does come back around sometimes.”
– Dain Quentin Gore
“It is sad to know that you cannot trust enough some art dealers and gallerists. Some similar things happened in London also, in a Notting Hill gallery. Not for me but for a lovely artist that I know.”
– Florin Ungureanu
“I’ve had a couple of those — one back in 1990 ran off with one of the Guinness daughters as my first London solo show closed — I gave up on galleries eventually."
– Mik Godley
“I have had work "go missing from shows" I have also had galleries sell my work then try and close that month before they have paid me, for the work which I went and personally installed in the buyers house the week before! I literally had to stand in the gallery like some sort of heavy asking my money. I was not happy about that, as not only was I losing a viable sales outlet, but losing repeat business."
– Nicholas Wright
“Almost every artist I know, myself included, has had similar experiences, god knows being an artist is tough enough without dishonest galleries failing to pay and stealing your work."
– Rebecca Stevenson
“The same happened to me. Such awful exploitation, why do these art collectors take advantage of artists? It’s so infuriating and corrupt.”
– Caroline List
“I have a couple of stories of my own. I still feel bad that Artist Pension Trust stole my work and that of many artists all over the world”
– Fausto Fernandez
“This is more common than any now in the Arts. I have encountered similar problems of Art stolen and even someone whom is a socialite in the Arts market and encouraged another Artist to plagiarise me. When I tried to take action the person behind it sneered and said nothing you can do and said if I tried legally to pursue it they would ensure it went on and on and they would make absolutely certain I incurred costs into thousands. While to them any legal cost was a drop in the ocean they knew I could not afford. Due to the money involved in the Arts market and money people this is why they are overly confident to do the hell they want and try and dictate everything about an Artists economic capacity. It is sly and underhand how it goes at times and power games played at the expense of the Artist. Too much of it goes on. I am actually owed thousands and for Art work and more stolen and contracts on other matters and I will not ever be allowed it. I tried to legally fight and it costs me too much in the end and I had to let go of it. Most Artists will back you and give you moral support on this, because many have had similar to one level or another happen and it is a lot more common of Artists being screwed over than a lot realise. The culture in the Arts market with certain influences on it assume it is not like any other profession and mistreat it for their own ends and the Artists and particularly where there is the persuasion of money. Artists are like any other profession and laws and more do apply and yet these are ignored and it is a culture where Artists have been getting shafted a long time.”
– Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney
“This has happened to me... I still have a body of work somewhere in the US but I have long since given up trying to track it down. Likely sold and I've never heard from the dealer again. I decided to write it off eventually as like you, I invested so much energy and it became a complete drain."
– Skye Holland
“Some years ago I let my then favourite sculpture (the one that had influenced the direction of my work) to a show in Birmingham. When it was returned it had been smashed to pieces. Initially one of the curators said that the transport company's insurance would cover it but it turned out that the company was owned by one of the other curator's father and it was a furniture removal company and not covered for art. I talk about it in my blog."
– Wayne Chisnall
“Back in 2009 we, The Little Artists, sent a crate of our Scalextric installation work to a gallery in Beijing. they also requested hi-res images of our Lego work 'for the catalogue'.A contact saw the show, and told us that the Lego images had been turned into prints that they were selling. We never saw any money for these. Once the show had finished, we tried to organise our work being returned. Our go-between kept trying for a while, and then after a couple of years our emails just got bounced back.We assume the gallery owner's kids have an amazing Scalextric track!"
– John Cake