Donít fall for the sweet talk!

Artist Beware

by Bonnie de Arteaga

Iím embarrassed to say, I fell for it. He was charming, and oh so handsome. He was from New York and had exquisite taste in interior décor. And he told me I was his favorite artist.
At first he brought clients to my booth at art shows. They bought my work. I got paid. He placed my work in his design showroom. He placed my work in local business. They bought my work. I got full price.
I asked him how he would make money on my work if he gave me full price? He said he would add his finderís fee onto the work and give me my price.
But... I always had to have the paperwork. I had to find him to sign my loan agreements. He sent me personal checks with no paperwork or receipts. I started to get confused about what was sold and what was not. Sometimes his showroom manager would sign the loan agreement when I dropped off work. When I could get hold of him, he told me I was his favorite artist.
His business was not doing well. He let his manager go. He decided to shut down his showroom and move his business into his home. I came to pick up my work with what inventory documentation I was able to keep track of. He said I really should be showing my work in New York.
There was a piece unaccounted for. I had left it with a signed receipt with the showroom manager. I asked if it were sold or on display? He said he never saw the piece and had no knowledge of what I was talking about. I called the ex-manager. She said she didnít know anything about what happened to the piece.
There was another missing piece on approval at someoneís home. It had been there awhile. I told him I either wanted the money or I wanted the piece returned. He said it was in their summer home and they were about to close for the winter. WHAT?
I wanted it back immediately. He stopped taking my calls. His wife would say he was sleeping. His wife would say he was in New York. I sued. A TV courtroom show contacted both of us about televising our case. I could just picture it Ė Svengali dealer vs starving artist. I considered it for about 30 seconds.
Suddenly my art appeared from the summer home and I got it back. I dropped the suit because I didnít have a good enough paper trail to prove exactly what was paid for and what was not. There was still one piece of my work missing.
Moral of the story: maintain scrupulous paperwork. Photocopy all checks and link them to your specific work. Insist on signed documents for every exchange of money, exhibition details and art. And oh yeah, donít fall for the sweet talk!
But... I always had to have the paperwork. I had to find him to sign my loan agreements. He sent me personal checks with no paperwork or receipts. I started
to get confused about what was sold and what was not. Sometimes his showroom manager would sign the loan agreement when I dropped off work. When I could get hold of him, he told me I was his favorite artist.
His business was not doing well. He let his manager go. He decided to shut down his showroom and move his business into his home. I came to pick up my work with what inventory documentation I was able to keep track of. He said I really should be showing my work in New York.
There was a piece unaccounted for. I
had left it with a signed receipt with the showroom manager. I asked if it were sold


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