Interview with Artist’s Agent Samantha Levin

by Carolyn Edlund

Samantha Levin is an artist’s agent, working in New York City. She explains how she works with artists, and the benefits of this type of relationship.

 

Samantha Levin writes about being an artist agent.

Artist agent Samantha Levin (left) with artist Carrie Ann Baade at an opening.

 

AS:  What is your background, and how did you get into the business of representing artists?

SL: I have a studio art degree in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts, and I’ve been immersed in the art world in various ways since graduating in 2001. Most of that time I spent trying to promote my own artwork.

About four or five years ago, I began meeting some of the artists from the Pop Surreal and Lowbrow scenes. Carrie Ann Baade was one of the first followed quickly by Molly Crabapple and Travis Louie to name a few out of many. Much friendlier than most guarded gallerists, these networkers were easy and fun to meet. They were not only talented, but business savvy, and constantly looking for new ways to sell their art.  Many of these artists began asking me to help them sell their work and I’ve been doing so for three years now.

AS:  The recession has actually presented opportunities for you and the artists you represent. How does this work?

SL: Because of the recession, many old conventions and habits that ran the art world in the past no longer work. Gallerists have been trying to find new ways to make a living and, as a result, are more open-minded towards ideas that they may have previously shaken their heads to.

One thing that has becoming more accepted is the use of alternative spaces or “pop-up galleries” which can have less overhead than a traditional white box. One of the venues in which I put up exhibits is a bar called the White Rabbit. Such venues (bars, cafes, etc.) generally have distracting décor, inefficient lighting and there’s more of a chance that art will be damaged while on display.

Because of this, they carry a stigma: If an artist shows in one, they must not respect their work, so why should a collector? The White Rabbit has white walls, the art is always hung safely and special lighting exists to let the artwork stand out. This, combined with my use of the internet, helps me sell work and promote an artist’s career.

It’s still too risky for an artist who has been exhibiting in galleries for a while to show in any bar no matter how well put together, so I generally only exhibit work at the White Rabbit of emerging artists who are looking for their first solo exhibit or have not shown their work very much at all.

AS:  How many different artists have you worked with? Are your relationships exclusive?

SL: I’ve worked with quite a few artists on varying levels, adjusting to each depending upon what they bring to the table. Some make a living from selling their work, while others are just starting out. There are a few with whom my relationship has become very strong. While I have helped them, they have also helped me.

I do not feel comfortable with representing anyone exclusively. Such a relationship would limit the control an artist has over their work and thus choke the reach their artwork could have. There are very few occasions where an artist would benefit from an exclusive relationship with a gallery or agent. An artist should be very careful about signing into such a relationship, and weigh all the pros and cons. The most successful artists I’ve seen have several gallerists or agents working for them in different cities to promote their work.

AS: What are the greatest benefits agents can offer to artists?

SL: An agent can find niches for an artist’s work that the artist may not have the time to explore. Also, they often have a collector base to whom they can introduce your work. They can also advise an artist as to where they might want to steer their career. It really depends on what strengths the individual agent has and what the artist needs. Are they a blogger with many readers? Do they have a strong collector base? Who else do they work with? Would they help manage an artist’s career if need be?

AS:  What are your current projects, and your future goals?

SL: Artwise, I have a wonderful schedule of shows for my arts organization, Anagnorisis, and am very excited to have been awarded a grant from the ISE Cultural Foundation. The future holds a lot of promise for me and the artists with whom I work.  I know it will be prosperous!

See this related article, “Artists – Do you Need an Agent?

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Comments

  1. I loved this article! It’s great to see an art agent finding success in the alternative art markets.

    Being an artists agent myself, I know how challenging that is.

    I appreciate that despite the “traditional methods” of showing art, you are willing to try new venues. Times have changed greatly, and so must the way that art is presented to the world.

    I wish you the best of luck with all you are doing for artists and their collectors! Ours is a strange breed…

  2. I at a transition stage in my life. Currently I am a frustrated artist, who wants to produce more art of my own, but also interested in create a business for myself. Since completing art school I have toyed with the idea of being a visual artist’s agent. Would you be willing to consult with me about how to go about establishing such a business in North Carolina?

    • Hi Laura,

      I’d love to help you if I can. Email me at [email protected].

      • hi samatha, my name is marcus and I have been drawing for 5 yrs now and have approx 40 drawings completed. my work is linear graphic by design. i am now ready to market my work but need someone to look at it, if u can’,t could u please recommend some artists resources for new artists? thank u very much! all my work is copyrighted if that helps.

        • Hi Marcus,

          Thanks for asking this! I don’t have time (doesn’t matter that your art is copyrighted), but will try to point you in the right direction.

          Don’t approach a gallery or agent yet!

          One of the most important things you need to do before approaching anyone for representation is to look at the art world as a whole and determine where you think your work might fit in. If you need guidance on this, it’s best to approach receptive people for help. Galleries and agents aren’t usually receptive.

          Who IS receptive? The best places to approach are artist networks online, blogs like this one (there is a ton of good advice tucked away in this blog!!!), meetup groups in your area, art classes (they expand your knowledge of the arts and also introduce you to your local peers) and whatever else you can find. If you can’t find anything in your area, organize it yourself. You should find people who you can bounce ideas off of, discuss the art business with (not complain about it, but explore it) and help guide each other. You should stick to people who like your art because those are the people who will be able to guide you in the right direction. If you’re totally socially inept (like I was a few years ago), then get the internet and social networking working for you. Some good reads: Edward Winkelman, a gallerist and art dealer, occasionally gives advice to artists on his blog. Here’s a good post: http://www.edwardwinkleman.com/2007/04/one-more-time-with-feeling-seriously.html Also, read Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann. It’s written as a guide to collectors, but gives a great picture of the art world as a whole.

          By being social online or off you’ll meet people who are connected to galleries, agents, brokers, etc who your art will work with. You’ll find matchmakers, so to speak.

          Before you go near a gallery, you should ask yourself “Do I want to work with this gallery/agent/curator? What do they do, how do they do it and what is their reputation?” If you don’t like what they do, then move on. If you find a gallery you like and have visited them if you can, then you should take a look at their submission guidelines and follow them carefully (find out if they even accept submissions). Most galleries absolutely do not have the time to respond to requests from artists and no artist should not expect them to do so. A gallery’s job is to sell and track the artwork of the artists they represent, and take care of their most trusted collectors. Neglecting those duties will kill their gallery. Many of them get approached by artists so often that responding to all of them with advice would starve their resources!!! You need to find advisers who are geared to help you.

          You did good by starting on ArtsyShark!!

  3. Whoops – found a typo.

    Fixed:
    Most galleries absolutely do not have the time to respond to requests from artists and no artist should expect them to do so.

    • Rene Osegueda says:

      Thats kinda out there. Most artist should be brave and find their niche. They are artists. If no gallery will want to sign you then think about hosting your own show, like mr. Brainwash did in the movie doc. “exit through the gift shop”

  4. hello my name is sergiu . I am artist ……… is possible a collaboration?
    I want to sell something of my painting…
    Here you can see some pictures….
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
    write on my email [email protected]
    thanks
    multumesc
    anticipat
    sergiu

  5. Hello my name is Audra I am just writing to ask for a little help i dont get out much my outside world is lived out in my artwork i dont have any dagrees of any such and never had lessons in the artfield i know that goes agnst me. I do know how to dream and i love color and peaceful images if only i could get noticed a bit to take it further. I was a singer most my life but my legs and health got the better part of me to get out as befor but i am not dead and i want to do my art. Let me know of any tips thank you AUdra Mclaughlin

  6. also.www.sefimages.net

    Samantha, please visit our two websites and if you see any value in Les’s work please contact us. Thank you Emily Lourigan (artist’s wife)
    pray for peace

  7. would you like become my agent?my work in the hawk’gallery http;//www.hawksgallery.com.tw/ chang tien-yu

  8. samantha,sorry,i send the wrong web .my web is http:www.hawksgallery.com.tw/ ifyou think it’s good would you mind become my agent?thank you ,however. chang tien-yu

  9. My website is broken right now, but I have over six hundred images to share. Most are twisted abstract images that feature eye-bending 3-d effects or optical illusions. Check these out.[img]www.eragallery.com[/img][img]eragallery.com/sites/michaelhedgpeth[/img]

  10. I am a Sumi-e painter and would like to hook up with someone to market my work. Please look at my web site (the clothing is not included) and see if there’s any interest. Please give me a call if you’d like to work with me.

    Thanks,
    GERRY SACKS

  11. Im looking for an art agent and im really hoping you can help me im a abstract and contemporary artist if you would like to view some of my previous pieces you can go to freelanced.com/ericwhisler thanks for your time my number 317(599-7083

  12. Hi.

    I am Pierre Henry Guerard,i am a sculptor and painter.I would like to find a agent to promote my work in NYC and NJ.Could you please inform me how do you work and your conditions.
    Thanks for your help.
    Have a nice day.
    Pierre Henry

  13. Hello Samantha,

    Would you have any recommendations on where to submit wall pieces done in a VERY unusual medium (vitreous enamel, that is, glass fused to metal). Arethere any galleries in NYC that are open to unconventional media (but not necesarily unconventional subject matter). I have been researching, but haven’t found anything…yet.
    Thank you! Katharine Wood

  14. Dear Samantha
    I read about you while surfing artists agents and was impressed with your ideas. I was hoping you might take a second and have a peek at my website/artwork. I’m looking for a little feedback and would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks Frank

  15. Dear Samantha,

    This is a very nice article which has gained you high rank on Google. You could maintain that rank permanently if one of your readers was a Wikipedia editor and was so kind as to make your article an outgoing link from an appropriate article. Google and other search engines use Wikipedia links to determine rank.

    I have a question: Is there any way to estimate the size of the US market (in dollars) that is spent on work created by new artists?

  16. I am Italian and live in the north of Italy in the province of Savona. I write on behalf of a friend . I consider him a talent but he has never done much to make his art work known. Can you please have a look at it and let me know your opinion? Tks. Orietta

  17. I trying to sell my art its very slow iam ready to make some money can you help me .

  18. Hello Samantha, I am an oil painter and have been for nearly 3 decades. I sell on occasion and also receive a portrait commission also. I also teach in home studio for extra income, work on my website ( presently I am designing a new one), socialize to sell at various artist’s functions and try to maintain my home and and have a life.

    I am telling you this because I truly have felt that if I could just extend visibility for my work outside of the small towns that I have lived in–I could then produce enough revenue to help my art career. I am a widow for 3 years now and a caregiver for a lengthy time of 15 years for my husband. I pursued my work as a visual artist through all the hardships I endured during my life .. and the challenge of keeping hope in my heart. For once I truly want to see if I can rightfully support myself doing what I’ve loved my entire life.
    Would you consider talking to me about the agent/artist relationship and about taking me as your client? I would most appreciate your input and consideration. I will talk with you or whatever it takes to look into this
    Meanwhile thank you in advance for reading this message and please check out my web site.
    Regards,
    Patt Legg

  19. Samantha & Artsy Shark…

    Many of us who are either emerging or struggling with marketing our artwork. Where do we find an Artist’s Agent?

    What should we look for in an artist agent so that we do to get scammed.

    Are there companies that take in artists?

    Thanks,
    Robin

    • Robin,

      I truly feel that they absolutely best favor you can do for yourself is to learn how to promote and market your own work, how to approach galleries, and how to run a business yourself. There are waaaaay too many artists out there who feel that they need an agent to handle everything, when this is usually a fantasy.

      I know of no companies that “take in artists” except for licensing agencies which are specific to the licensing industry. There are a lot of people out there who would take your money and produce nothing.

      Check out this article http://www.artsyshark.com/2013/07/16/artist-agent/

  20. I am a professional painter looking for an agent to represent my art, because I don’t have time to do both things, painting and promote it.

  21. Hi
    I am Austin Pierre, Contemporary painter. I wourld like to find a agent to promote my art’s work in New York. Could you please inform me how do you work and your conditions.
    I am in montreal QC.
    Thanks for you help
    Have a nice day
    Austin Pierre!

  22. Hello Samantha,

    I wonder if you can help me or point me in the right direction. I have been been painting for over 25 years and in spite of going online with the curated exhibition “The Open Book” at http://www.blacksheepmuseum.org and receiving a congratulatory letter from Alexis in 2002 for being in the top 1 million sites I have been unable to get meaningful representation.

    When I started out they´ld say he´s talented but needs a bigger body of work. Then it was an unimpressive c.v. and wanted to price the work low ,according to size and irrespective of the development of my work over a decade. Or it would be that it´s too unfamiliar or empty promises in the future. When I went online I wrote to major galleries but the closest I got to success was from a swiss gallery which said I would be famous but that they only dealt with the work of dead artists! Since then I´ve more or less given up trying to market my work but continue painting as I cannot do otherwise.

    With best wishes and thanking you in anticipation of your assistance,

    Guy

  23. I am a midcareer Artist . Have lost my previous important galleries due to dealers retiring… Can you help me?

  24. I have number of oil paintings based on my concepts and references. Commissioned artist have done it for me .
    I am seeking a guidance to exhibit at Manhattan , D C also to sale canvass prints of my collection.
    I am a collector and dealer.
    Hope a response from you.
    Regards
    Ramesh

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