Bellwether Gallery - R.I.P.

Bellwether Gallery (Becky Smith)

XXX

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

I personally know of four artists who have had BIG trouble getting paid by Bellwether. The amounts were large (tens of thousands of dollars), and we're talking about at least a year of nonpayment. At least one of these artists took Becky to court.

Anonymous said...

Becky has worked her ass off for years. Part of not having a trust fund is being in debt from time to time. I'm sure she'd love to pay artists faster, but I know she does the best she can for her artists.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I don't have a trust fund either, and I've never neglected to pay someone I owe $$ to. I strongly disagree with your implication that artists should be content with bad business practices; that's an old story that needs some serious changing. And anyway, are you contending that Becky HASN'T had a problem paying many of her artists? The point of this blog is to share info so artists can enter into a gallery relationship with their eyes wide open.

Anonymous said...

Becky has had issues paying, but she is not running off with artists money. She lives modestly and puts every cent back into the gallery. Part of running a small company is managing debt, and she's done it and survived and paid everyone eventually. The reason she is in debt is because she has made moves for her artists that cost money, like moving into Chelsea, producing shows and doing art fairs. I think most of her artists would rather her be the legit Chelsea gallery that pays slow, then an unknown Brooklyn Gallery that takes no monetary risks, and never pays late, but never sells or promotes an artist well. Bellwether is not like the other gallery mentioned on this blog for not paying, she is a selfless hard worker, that has gone into debt to produce results for her artists. Everyone I know from that gallery has gotten paid in the end and gotten a NY Times review.
So, I'd say its better to show at Bellwether then most other places on this bloq with a X.

Anonymous said...

I have been in the situation described, not with Becky, but within the Chelea scene, and this debate is VERY familiar. Anonymous 11:21 makes some good points, but I think it bears pointing out that, galleries paying important expansion costs before paying artists means that it is gallery artists who are literally loaning that money for free. And paying the interest on it too, if they still have credit. Did they agree to that?

I don't think anyone begrudges a penny of their dealer's share.

When money owed is not forthcoming for months and years on end, artists ***who have already paid for production and labor costs for work sold*** are forced to manage an extra load of debt. Since that debt is, sadly, a big surprise, in other words not negotiated, it is only forthcoming at very high credit card interst rates, if at all.

I don't think it's whining to add how destructively humiliating it can be, first, to realize that the deal negotiated is not the real deal, and second to have it demonstated month after month that you the artist do not have the clout or respect to collect from your dealer.

The argument that the dealer has "more important" people to pay first, and more important things to buy within the luxury stratosphere of art-world influence, is just offensive to an artist trying to choose between food, materials, and ruined credit.

The unnegotiated, secret, policy of a gallery taking out a free credit line on the backs of their artists has very destructive consequences for all.

That's why this blog is right on.

Anonymous said...

I sold a work through a group show at Bellwether and when I asked later they weren't able to tell me who bought it. Either they kept poor books or were purposefully not sharing the name of a collector.

It is necessary for artists to keep track of who owns their work.

Anonymous said...

I am an art dealer, and while I have gone in debt to promote the work and get exposure for the artists, I always pay my artists first. Always. Once I said, "Hey, I want us to do this art fair but I'm broke, can I pay you for these recent sales by the end of January?" They said yes. Fine.

I think if you just leave your artists as the last ones because they have the least power to do anything about it, or they're scared you'll dump them, that makes you a both a bad business person and a great big Bag of Dicks.

Anonymous said...

I was owed some money by Bellwether. Got word from them, day after the money was supposed to arrive, that it would be weeks late. Really flimsy excuses followed, which left the impression they knew the whole time they were going to be late. Good people, just not that professional and appear to have a cashflow problem.

Anonymous said...

I have heard from other artists who have shown and sold through Bellwether that they have had trouble getting paid. While she does do a good job of marketing the work and getting it reviewed she is not so nice (i've experienced this personally). I wonder if dealers get so tired of artists wanting something from them that they just don't have the patience to be nice to anyone anymore? I imagine its a tough position to be in, but, she could work on her attitude.

Also...A friend bought a piece from them and has been given the run-around about actually receiving the artwork. Nearly a year has gone by and they still have not delivered it even though it's been paid for! She is not a 'collector' so maybe they just don't care.

mojo said...

i know becky from her bklyn days. she is definitely not a crook. she has taken on big risks and responsibility to better her business as well as her artists.she does indeed put every cent back into the gallery and works very hard. it's not easy getting $ from anybody in this business whether they have it or not.she does her best and lives modestly. if she did have someone bankrolling her i don't doubt she'd have one of the biggest galleries in nyc. it's a tough biz.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know if any of the artists who have had problems being paid by this gallery still work with them ?

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't art galleries be subject to the BBB as do regular retail businesses. And art gallery is no different from a clothing store...just what is being sold. These galleries need to be accountable for their shoddy practices just as others do.

Anonymous said...

Borrowing money from broke artists is a BAD business practice, when HUGE loans are taken from the artists without interest, permission or penalty, to float the business with seemingly no consequences, nothing is gained except trashed trust and reputation. Dragging in the most fragile and valuable resource, the artist, into risk crosses the line of responsibility. Gamblers Anonymous anyone?

Anonymous said...

As a colleague, I have a lot of respect for Becky's program and history.

Anonymous said...

she's super-broke. If you need the money she owes you get it now or you will never see it.

Anonymous said...

doubt she's a crook, but I know 2 artists personally who have had problems with her. should have gotten a cheaper space or stayed in brooklyn, she was doing fine.

rumored to be RIP.

Anonymous said...

RIP ? are you sure ?

I am one of her artists...

Anonymous said...

Bellwether has just been listed as participating in the Armory Show next spring. How can they be on the RIP list?

Buck Naked said...

From artloversny.com -

* NEWS FLASH !! TUES NOV 18 *
* our man on the beat - SIMON CERIGO - confirms that RIVINGTON ARMS, BELLWETHER & ROEBLING HALL/CHELSEA are CLOSING *

If you are one of her artists you should call her, and get back to me.

Buck Naked said...

artloversny.com update -

ARTLOVERS INADVERTANTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THE SPREAD OF A RUMOR - THAT BELLWETHER - WAS CLOSING !! - IT IS NOT !! & WE SINCERELY APOLOGIZE !!

Anonymous said...

Galleries should not be "taking loans" from unsuspecting artists by paying them very late for work sold. There should be an understanding about this. For instance, if the artist is not paid within 30 days of the sale, the debt should start accruing interest comparable to what a bank would charge for a loan. That is the very least a late-paying gallery could do. The artist did not sign on to become an interest-free lender, or indeed, a lender at all. This is just not acceptable. The artist is usually counting on that money for rent and necessities and probably has debts of her own.

Anonymous said...

Thats totally true. Its bad faith to give artists the shaft this way, since there is no way to assume that the gallery would withold their money. One solution? Make them always sign a consignment agreement. If they won't oblige, you know they are in bad shape.

Anonymous said...

I began my "career" or shall I say misadventures as an artist at Bellwether gallery when she stole me away from a good gallery in my home town, telling me to lie to them to avoid conflict, which I did not. Conflict ensued... Green as I was, I didn't realize she would be completely non-responsive in payments she owed me for months on end, also ignoring all emails and phone calls, even when she decided she was my new rep. When I finally left her I got better gallery representation to defend me, and they got her to pay up. Not to mention attempting to tell me how to do my work, what subject matter to depict in my work, even what colors to use, etc... I would suggest young artists to stay away from this gallery. Becky practices bad business, the worst kind of failed artist turned shady dealer. Young artists think they need to put up with money-hungry crooks to be in the hippest galleries and be noticed. But that's not true, it's all about the work. The best and most honest galleries tend to be not the trendiest.

Anonymous said...

She has been ripping off artist after artist since her move from Greenpoint to Williamsburg.
I have warned numerous away but some still wadded in and ickiness insued.
Who cares if she has a nice space she even moved from Greenpoint sticking her landlord for months of owed rent.
She joins the list of endless scumbags that prey on those that produce. She is gross in so many ways.
If you think she is a good dealer honest and all that than it must be that you are in her class or her responding.

If she is RiP good riddence to trash.

Anonymous said...

she has laid off her "staff" and must be living under her desk again.
Poor dear.
She will close and it will be in the night stiffing every one that she touched.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked at how oblivious these comments are to understanding art as a business.

My distaste for Becky as a person aside, I appreciate her ability to build art careers. She is adept (and talented) at making the most out of very little. She has built and seized hi-profile venues, press and collectors for her artists.

Becky is extremely opportunistic. That may not make her a good friend, but it makes for a great art dealer.

Galleries are a business. Keeping doors open and electricity turned on is often more significant to building an artist's career than the sale of a single piece. Nonpayment needs to be put in context.

Nonpayment is unacceptable, but there is something to an artist understanding the expense in building the careers that benefits them. Rent and utilities take priority in the big picture- for the galleriest and the artist.

Not all galleries are worth the effort of showing with. Some venues have never viewed art as a business and historically lacking any substantial developments for artists shown there. However, no one - not even an old neighbor with lots of juicy stories about the ol' days next to Becky - can dispute she has a record of turning emerging artists into museum and top collected names. When blasting Becky for nonprompt payment, her priority in financing building long term careers over short term sales should be considered.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes that the art market is something beyond a business is, and deserves to be, an artist and potentially a very good art critic who can function in the greater "art world".

If you make a deal with an artist that is 50-50 and you are business partners on an artwork then that is the deal. If you welch on those terms then...

I personally know how hard it can be to run a gallery, but if you are not aware of your operating costs and somehow think you are above the codes of business practice, then you probably an artist or a critic and should look to become a contributor to the art world's dialogue.

Bellwether has a phenomenal program. The artists who show with Becky are talented and thoughtful and engaged with the world around them. But business is business and there is really no excuse for a gallery owner to owe his/her artists.

Anonymous said...

Bellwether now removed from NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) list as of today. Any clues?

Anonymous said...

Bellwether has been taking money for artwork and not delivering it for months. There are criminal charges in the works.

Anonymous said...

Owning the gallery for over ten years has been my great joy and honor. It was never easy but always thrilling to ride the waves of change that have washed over the artworld since the gallery opened. The name of the gallery has always been its intention, to be a leading indicator of future trends and movements in the artworld. I was proud to have been a part of the Williamsburg scene, the exodus to Chelsea, the dawn of the e-commerce era, the boom of the emerging market, the rise of the art fair imperative and the NADA generation. I always tried to have a distinct voice and point of view, represent as many women as possible, curate from my values and not my taste and get behind artists who’s brilliance and concepts were apparent in their craft. I aimed to be known among my peers for having an eye for painting, photography and installation. I have enjoyed curating and was very proud of the many group shows the gallery has presented over the years and the critical attention they attracted.

As the current financial climate forces shifts in business and culture I feel strongly that it is time for Bellwether to embrace change and open itself up to what’s to come. For the foreseeable future I will continue to represent the gallery’s artists privately and I am working on several shows with them in a Bellwether-at-large capacity. Details to follow in the fall.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to the letter above, the artists I've spoken to who were represented by Bellwether say they will no longer be working with the gallery, privately or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

We all knew this was coming...
The real issue is that it should have happened a lot sooner. Spending what little money there was to "keep the lights on" should have been paid to artists she owed money to and she should have admitted sooner that here gallery was not a profitable business.
Nobody is saying she ran off with the money to live a lavish lifestyle or fly in a corporate jet- Her job was to sell paintings that were made and financed by the artists at a profit and give the artist their half. What about the rent that the artist has to pay, or keeping the lights on in the studio?
These dealers never consider this.. It's such an ego manical attitude to feel that the artists will get paid when she is ready, not when she agreed that she would pay them. She just can't admit she couldn't hack it ,and took everyone down around her, owing thousands of dollars to mutiple artists.
At best it is an overblown sense of self importance causing risky choices that affected artists financially. At worst its calculated criminal behavior that should be prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

While she was by no means my favorite person I think things are not as simplistic as artists want to make it. A dealer invests a lot of money in an artist and their careers. Does an artist pay for the shipping, booth cost etc. when a gallery takes you to an art fair? This can be a $40,000 investment. Does an artist help pay the $5000 plus rent if their show does not do well? Most galleries at her level need to sell $80,000 a month just to break even and pay the bills for a typical Chelsea space. It is a tragic story all the way around and one that we will all see played out again and again in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

There are other galleries including ones affected by the recession that somehow managed to pay their artists.
Contrast her with Oliver Kamm. He represented mostly conceptual artists and artists that were critically but not commercially successful. But even for his unsalable artists he shipped their work to fairs, got it framed and promoted them. He finished all the planned shows, helped artists get studio visits with new galleries and paid everyone before he closed.
In contrast her roster was almost entirely traditional painting with several commercially successful artists. This was a very commercial gallery. She had money coming in. From the artists. She chose not to pay them long, very long before the recession even started.
There are decent people in this business who pay artists.

Who Am I? said...

I admit that I am celebrating the demise of this gallery and toasting its passing. Becky was an admirable dealer who was extremely ruthless and was willing to do whatever it takes to ruin the artist's career at their expense.

For example, she had a few years ago asked a bunch of artwork for a benefit to help out the gallery. Unfortunately, she pretty much turned the tables against the artists and had no qualms about cutting the cords to many talented artists who deserved a bigger break.

In any case, she also betrayed her roots in Brooklyn by dissing the scene when she moved up to Chelsea. Apparently she was obsessed by power and control. The lesson is that you shouldn't bite the hand that supported you in the first place.

Unfortunately, over the years, she continued to step over the toes of many people, especially artists without conscience. That is, until now.

The karma now is coming back and her gallery has folded. William Powhida's drawing of her with that bitchy look remains strong in my mind.

I plan to celebrate the passing of this gallery by swigging a lot of beers tonight. It feels like the Second Coming.

Another dealer, another day.

Anonymous said...

Ok, how about this...
While she was by no means my favorite person either, I think things are not as simplistic as art dealers want to make it. An artist invests a lot of money in a show of work they produce for the gallery. Does a dealer pay for the production, months of work time, studio rent, supplies etc. when a dealer shows an artist's work and can't sell it? This can be a $40,000 investment. Does an art dealer help pay the $5000 plus rent if their show does not do well? Most galleries at her level need to sell $80,000 a month just to break even and pay the bills for a typical Chelsea space, so they should have a cheaper space or show work that sells for more, or get better artists, or sell in the secondary market to support their curatorial "vision". It is a tragic story all the way around , especially for the artists who are the last to be paid, if at all, and one that we will all see played out again and again in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your argument applies in her case because she wasn't showing conceptual work or hard to sell work.

Her roster and most of her shows were heavy on traditional painting. She had several artists who were selling work. Her gallery was commercially orientated and mostly showed traditional painting. Some of her big names haven't had a show with her for a few years and chose to have shows with their European dealers or secondary dealers maybe because they soured on the relationship for all the reasons mentioned above including not being paid.
Most galleries can pay their bills and keep everyone happy and paid if they have 4-5 painters on the roster who have a collector base. She had that and she blew it.

Anonymous said...

She should go after the owner of this blog for contributing to her demise with that Deathwatch nonsense.

Anonymous said...

LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD

Anonymous said...

"She should go after the owner of this blog for contributing to her demise with that Deathwatch nonsense"

Yeah, with the money she has left over after defending against all the lawsuits by the artists she stiffed...

What goes around comes around.

Anonymous said...

The way the Bellwether closing is being handled by Becky is the quintessential textbook example of how NOT to close shop and burn all your bridges along the way.

She gave her artists a little over a week to get their work back from her with a warning: there will be 2 trucks coming, 1 for storage and the other for garbage. Next, she's skipping town for a few months and is refusing to even discuss payment of exorbitant debt with her artists outside of the terms she's presented. (Essentially: Don't expect to see a dime.) She cries a river of crocodile tears over the hard work, expenses, and risks she has undertaken as if she were the only one. What she fails to see is how every one of her artists also worked hard, had expenses, and took a risk with every piece and show they did with her. She is myopic and selfish in this respect.

If her artists have any sense of self worth after being in such an abusive relationship, they should band together and show her for what she is. Drive her out of town and make sure she can never return.

Karma's a bitch when you are too.

Anonymous said...

I can vouch that when she did the benefit in Brooklyn years ago I had to almost beg her to give me the name of the artist that bought my work. She had a very strange attitude that finally bit her in the ass.

Anonymous said...

While I'm neither an artist or a dealer, I do believe I have some insight into why this gallery closed. I'm a young (30) collector in another state and I frequently come to NYC to meet with gallerists and to purchase works for my small and humble collection. One of the artists I collect is a well known professor at Columbia and I always catch the MFA shows, to see her student's work.

This past year, one of the graduates, whom I really liked, signed to Bellwether and I made repeated attempts to find out what pieces were available for purchase and to set up a viewing, all to no avail. So, I gave up.. I felt very bad about the whole situation - because I really liked several of the artists they represented.

While I'm clearly 8000000 miles away from being an uber collector like the Norton family, I always acquire 4-5 solid pieces per year, I enjoy difficult to display or "challenging" pieces, and I'm a voting member on the contemporary acquisitions board at one of the Nation's top 5 modern/contemporary art museums. If the gallery had been better organized and responsive, it could have been a great relationship for all the parties involved.

Months after this, I received an email from the artist inviting me to their show (note it was from the artist and not the gallery) - needless to say I decided not to go. In retrospect, I should have just reached out directly to the artist but, at the time, I assumed they were just as indifferent as the gallery.


xxx

Anonymous said...

i also once inquired about purchasing something at this gallery, and nobody even got back to me. i had sent an email just asking price and availability and they should have jumped on this, even though it was a potential small sale.

Anonymous said...

The reason why Becky Smith didn't get back to people with small sales thus adding more collectors is that she was too busy selling the huge, very pricey works to 4-5 collectors that supported her gallery. She didn't care unless you threw money at her.

So unless you were in that circle of friend collectors, it's unsurprising that you would be ignored otherwise.

Anonymous said...

She can't owe artists money. Otherwise she couldn't afford to be holed up at the chateau Marmont

Which she is...

Anonymous said...

She does still owe lots of money to the artists and she is indeed holed up at the Chateau Marmont.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/opinion/25kolhatkar.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=bellwether%20gallery&st=cse

Anonymous said...

I had nothing but a good experience with Bellwether. I bought several pieces and enjoyed dealing with Becky. The downturn in the economy is unfortunate for many people. I commend Becky for her diligent efforts and enjoyed her insight and honesty. I wish her the best of luck in her next endeavor!

Anonymous said...

I think she's making a comeback or fairwell show soon.

Anonymous said...

"I had nothing but a good experience with Bellwether. I bought several pieces and enjoyed dealing with Becky. The downturn in the economy is unfortunate for many people." I love this kind of comment coming from collectors who contribute to the terrible financial situation of artists and who just care about their art portfolio. A big thank you to all of them for taking forever to pay the gallery, use the crisis to ask for discounts (when THEY don't have the slight financial troubles), have stopped collecting in depth, and just buy whatever name is on their list of the new "stock" of the month...
Galleries have not waited for the financial crisis to not pay their artists...

Anonymous said...

Just a lil' anecdote about a personal encounter with Becky, but a telling one.

Back when she was in Greenpoint, before she had even moved to Williamsburg, I was in her gallery one day. I had heard that she would be moving to Williamsburg and walked up to her to tell her how much I enjoyed seeing all of the cool work that she showed, and right on my own block (in then not-too-gentrified) Greenpoint!

She simply looked at me like I had dog shit smeared all over my face, turned and walked away without saying a word.

Anonymous said...

Its long enough that we now know Becky isn't coming back to the art world so I will share that she showed artist in exchange for promises that they would sell a certain amount. This meant that if an artist didn't sell enough of a show then they'd pay Becky money, or buy their own paintings back. Not all but some of her artists did this but as I watched the gallery collapse I noticed that the rich artists who did or were suspected of buying their own work all wound up in big galleries. Is this something that everyone does? Its also funny that at least one of these artists werent paid their cut of there own artwork which they bought themselves. Becky should blackmail these people.