Monday, September 11, 2006

Exchange: giving & receiving?

There should probably be some sort of a "blog rule" about writing when you are mad. And yeah, I know I should be able to self edit and prevent myself from doing this but what can I say. So, that being said, proceed reading at your own risk.

When I was a young fledgling artist out in San Francisco, I was lucky enough to share studio space in a big Sausalito warehouse shared by about 150 artists. It was a terrific building, one of those cool places that was "known" locally. The building maintained a website with information about all of us so I had an internet presence before I had my own website up. I only mention this because I am sure that is how this whole thing started.

One day back in 2000 or 2001 I got a phone call from an organization in Arkansas called Art Exchange. The caller was pretty congenial and explained that their organization markets to designers and art collectors. He wanted to place my art on their website.

I was so naive in those days, actually I still am, but I was really really naive back then. I mean I hadn't even really shown my work at that point. So I simply could not believe my "luck" that this company would want lil ol' me and my art. I listened to his pitch and discussed with my husband (who had a real job back then meaning I had more financial backing than most struggling artists) and we decided to pay the $475 (I think that was the amount?) to post images of some of my art on this website. It was a very labor intensive process with tons of paperwork where I had to pick words to describe each and every piece of my art. Abstract. Red. Earthy. Collage. Painting. Etc. Etc. Took me forever to wade through their requirements, get slides made and send the package off to Arkansas. But I did it. And several weeks later I was up and running on their site.

I did some searches using the words I had chosen and my work didn't really pop up like I had hoped. You see, it was all alphabetical and my last name begins with an "S." So anyone searching for an earthy red abstract would have to be patient enough to wade through all the earthy red abstract art by artists with last names A-R before they happened upon my piece. Honestly I kind of lost hope at that point. I called the company to discuss and the congenial guy was not nearly so congenial. I felt as though I had been "had." I was a chump.

Flash forward five years.

I have sold probably 500 pieces of original art, none through Art Exchange. I earn a living through my art. I jury into some of the best art fairs in the country; I sometimes win prizes; I am at work preparing for a gallery show later this year. Sure I face my fair share of rejection, but generally I feel pretty good about my path.

One day several months ago I got a call from Art Exchange. They wanted to "feature" me in an online show. I didn't think it sounded like a match for me and it cost too much money (like I would give them more money!?!) but it did prompt me to look at their site again. And I saw my work on there. It was old work, stuff long sold. I contacted them to see if I could trade out my images for newer work. Naturally that would cost me additional money so I asked to sever ties with their company and to be removed from the site. I sent a written request confirming my intention.

I then lost track as I have been kind of busy. Forgot to check back with them. When I finally did I saw I was still on the site. I sent another email. Nothing happened. I was still on the site. Ugh.

Early August 2006 - phone rings. It is Art Exchange. Another congenial guy which is the only reason I let him talk. He tells me about an opportunity to exhibit at a New York show, some sort of hospitality convention where Art Exchange will have a booth marketing art to hotels. They are seeking artists to provide slides that will be part of a slide show. Based on the succcess of past events, he anticipates I would make a minimum of $38,000 if I participate. Hmmm, interesting. I was polite, I listened. I actually had John listen to him too. This "once in a lifetime" opportunity normally cost $3500 but was being offered to me for $1750 (can you say red flag?). They had one last spot to fill to complete their show. We were walking out the door at the time, on our way to a show. I told him I would call him back by Monday if I wanted to do it.

John and I talked in the car. We decided there was no way, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I mean I have a gallery working with me who does not require any upfront payment. They believe in me enough to market me at their own cost, preparing and mailing postcards, sponsoring an opening, etc. It just sort of rubs me the wrong way that I would pay a company $1750 to show 6 slides of my art to a convention audience. And honestly, the idea I might make $38,000????? I would have to significantly increase my prices to make that much money off 6 pieces of art, ha! Not to mention the odds of selling all 6 of my pieces during the show. The whole thing didn't even make sense.

Needless to say, we did not call Art Exchange back.

So just a few minutes ago, this guy calls back. I tried to cut him off at the pass and say I was not interested. He persisted with some fast talk. I got angry and raised my voice. I told him I wished to sever all ties with Art Exchange. He asked why. I told him I didn't have to tell him why, I wanted out and that was it. He got kind of nasty and raised his voice. I said I was selling my art quite successfully on my own and that I had others working with me who didn't require money up front. He said he couldn't believe I was walking away from the opportunity to make $50,000. I told him I was confident of my ability. He said, "good luck with that" as he laughed. And that is when I really got angry. I said, "I WANT OFF YOUR SITE." He said, "Good, we want you off too."

I'm not sure what the moral is. Don't do business with snakes (joke)? I don't know, you can draw your own conclusions. All I know is Art Exchange didn't work for me. It probably does work for some people, who knows. It just didn't for me and I honestly feel had. I hope to heck I'm off their website very soon. Any affiliation at all just troubles me at this point.

7 comments:

  1. It sounds just like Publish America, and some of the other writing/publishing scam vanity presses out there.
    For heaven's sake, is there anything in the arts world like writers and editors have created for themselves, such as Preditors & Editors http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ or the Beware sections in the forums of http://AbsoluteWrite.com

    ?

    There should be. I'm thinking some place like http://www.artistresource.org/ that Li Gardiner started and now has a much broader scope as a program supported by Lawyers for the Arts, might be a good place for such a "heads up". LfA might be good folks to talk with as well if these codgers don't take your old work of their website upon formal written request you keep a copy of... (just three cents shy of a wooden nickel)

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  2. Oh... my... God! I am speechless! What a rude, arogant, horrible person/company to deal with! Thank God you didn't get sucked in by them again. Could he have been any more unprofessional to you?!!?!? I'm glad you warned us all... And if you do keep appearing on their site, then just laugh because the joke is on them - you're still getting free publicity due to their own ineptness...
    I'm so sorry this happened to you...
    Hugs, Shari

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  3. In all that awfulness, here's something to make you smile: Paul just came in the den and said, "Can I cut some words out of the paper for my Mary Beth Shaw-like painting?"

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  4. What scumsuckers! I HATE these so called, "artist websites" that take artists' money to "promote" them and don't do CRAP. I recently got a call for the "opportunity" to buy a one page ad in a publication for the reasonable fee of $14,000! Bwa Ha ha ha. I told the guys, "you have just described my art budget for the next 10 years! He couldn't get off the phone fast enough.

    It's not like most artists have a lot of money, so it really irks me that these places take advantage of us!

    Uggh! Enough said. I'm still mad over this post, and I didn't even write it!

    Deb

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  5. Anonymous10:47 AM

    I don't know the last date anything was posted, but this is 9/14/07 and I have been extremely patient w/ a rep @ Art-exchange and did mega investigating... I came so to biting the bait, thank God for my research saavy Husband... I just said NO!!! Thanks for all the warnings to everyone that took the time to post. MM

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  6. Anonymous, whoever you are....I am soooo glad I might have helped you. Thanks so much for letting me know. Good luck!
    Mary Beth

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  7. I found your post through AJ Maketing and am so glad that you wrote it. We need more peole exposing these fruads! Thanks!

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