Hollywood Agency Announces Plans to Represent Visual Artists

Gallery support may not be forthcoming.

Johnny Depp will play a rogue art dealer in Mordecai. Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

United Talent Agency, the Beverly Hills-based talent agency known for representing actors like Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow announced the launch of a new division called UTA Fine Arts, which will manage the careers of visual artists. What does this mean for the art world? It means things are about to get very interesting.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the agency will not seek to replace galleries in terms of showing or directly selling art. Instead, they will help artists find financing for projects, sign corporate sponsorships, or get involved in the movie business if they desire.

This means more opportunities to make big bucks, but also more opportunities to “sell out,” something art world insiders aren’t always keen on. “Do too much, and you’re just not cool anymore,” said Marc Glimcher.

Glimcher also points out that in order for the agency to correctly represent an artist, they’re going to have to have the kind of insider information that only their gallery can provide, and that it’s unlikely most galleries are going to want to provide it, at least at first. “It’s going to be super hard to pull off,” he told WSJ. “If you’re going to be an artist’s agent, you need to know more about their work, their prices and their collectors than their own dealer does—and no dealer will be induced to share that kind of information.”

Increasing Exposure

We imagine the tides could change quickly, however, if galleries begin to realize that cooperating with an agency could mean increased exposure, and therefore increased prices, for their artists.

This announcement comes at a time of growing mainstream interest in the contemporary art scene—when Art Basel in Miami Beach is just as hyped as Coachella (see 15 Art Basel in Miami Beach Parties You’ll Never Get Into), when celebrities are desperate for legitimate visual arts credibility, and when champagne bottles designed by Jeff Koons and sneakers with Warhol prints on them sell like hotcakes (see Andy Warhol x Converse Coming in February). As much as insiders may hate it (or claim to), the art world is no longer its own insular cocoon.

“You look at artists’ careers these days, and it’s so much bigger than showing in the rarefied world of the gallery,” said Joshua Roth, an art lawyer hired to head the new division. “They’re vital to a larger community.”

While UTA Fine Arts has not signed anyone yet, Roth said he will spend the next year trying to cram the roster with “the best names in the industry.” The agency will charge a 10 percent fee for any project it initiates, which is in keeping with their other divisions.

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