My name is Ariel Kahana and I’m the owner of Agora gallery. The gallery was founded by my late mother who was a talented artist herself. For a long time she struggled to get representation at one of New York’s traditional galleries without much success until in 1984 she decided to open her own gallery, show her work, and provide other artists with the opportunity to exhibit their artwork in New York City. Promoting emerging artists as well as established artists who have no track record in a certain market is always a risk. She was not a rich person and in order to sustain the gallery she had to charge the artists a fee. We have been doing just that, in a transparent and honest manner, for more than 30 years.
I have been the owner of the gallery for more than 15 years and this is the first time that I feel compelled to respond. I can no longer just sit back and see all this negative stuff that is written about the gallery when I know that it’s just not true.
After reviewing these posts I think it is best I respond in three parts
1 - Our business model, it’s morality and the value it presents to artists
Do you see a problem with an artist taking an ad to promote her/his work in an art magazine? Do you see a problem with an artist hiring a PR person to contact various media channels? Do you see a problem with an artist renting a space to present her/his art? Do you see a problem with an artist using an online service to build and host her/his website? I bet all these things seem legit to you, so what is wrong with an artist working with a promotional gallery that provides him all these services on a very high level?
Agora Gallery is a promotional gallery, similar to a PR firm, but with a gallery. We have been in the business of promoting artists of all levels since 1984. It all started when my mother did all things I mentioned above to promote herself and simply offered to provide other artists with the same services...
We do not accept or promote artists whose artwork we feel we can not promote and do not have a reasonably good chance of selling. When you work with us you get great exposure both online ( try to search for the words “art gallery New York” or check out our FB page with 100,000+ fans) and we have an amazing space in the heart of Chelsea which is frequented by many collectors and buyers and we sell a decent amount of art - just today one of our installers was not available, so I just got back from installing a beautiful piece in a great apartment near Washington square and this is something that happens all the time. No I am not going to disclose how often and how many pieces we sell every year. I will not do this for two reasons. One we are a private business. And the other, and more important, is that I don’t want artists to try and do the math regarding what are their odds to sell their work - it just doesn’t work like this - if you want to invest in your promotion you should be mentally ready for the possibility that you will not sell and /or will not cover your expenses. If you can't afford this and feel that this will cause a financial strain please do not do this. We can’t stress this enough! As someone who grew with a mother who wasn’t that well off and had to struggle many years it will just make me sad if you do that... if you want a chance for exposure you can always enter our competition for which the fee is small ($45) but don’t risk it all and hope to make allot of money in the exhibition because there is a good chance that this will not happen and you might not even sell any artwork at all.
The bottom line in my opinion is that we present our services in a very honest manner and it is up to the artists to decide if they are interested and/or if they can afford them, but to say that our business model is not legit... and that we prey on innocent artists? We only represent artists who are of legal age to make their decisions and we don’t do anything illegal. We present it all in a very clear manner - it’s up to the artist to decide what he/she wants to do!
2 - How do we present our services and why do we charge a portfolio review fee:
The way we approach artists and the fact that we charge a portfolio review fee were both criticized in this thread and I feel that it’s important that we take the time to analyze them.
Most of our artists find us online or stop by the gallery to inquire about representation and we direct everyone to the representation section on our site. We did our best to present the information in a very clear and transparent manner. I encourage you to visit this section and let me know if you feel that anything isn’t clear, you may email your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org . In addition we have a few representatives, they approach artists whom they think might be a good fit for the gallery and politely ask them if they would like to receive information about our services. Below is a breakdown of how they work. I will be glad to hear your feedback if you feel that anything should be changed and made clearer:
The first email that goes out:
My name is XXX. I am a gallery representative working with Agora Gallery, which is located in Chelsea, the art district of NYC.
May I send you some information about the gallery and promotional services, which may be of interest to you?
I look forward to hearing from you.
If they don’t get a responses they follow up with:
I know your inbox is probably a busy place, so I just wanted to send a quick follow-up email. Would you like to receive some information about the New York exhibition opportunities and promotional services, offered by Agora Gallery? My original email is copied below for quick reference.
I look forward to hearing from you,
And that’s it - if the artist doesn’t respond or indicates that she/he is not interested we do not respond and don’t contact them again.
If they respond and tell us they would like to get more information we reply back with this email
I am happy to hear that you are interested in receiving more information about Agora Gallery.
For over thirty years Agora Gallery has provided useful guidance and valuable advice to talented artists from all over the world who wish to promote their art to a wider audience.
There is a fee for gallery representation and artist promotion which includes participation in an exhibition in our sophisticated New York gallery space, comprehensive PR services, professional guidance, and much more.
Please visit our gallery representation page for an overview of the services that we offer. Let me know if you have any questions.
That’s it - From this point the artists who are interested are welcome to ask more questions and submit their portfolio to be reviewed by our director. They are also directed to our FAQ page which answers most of the questions and very clearly indicated that we make no promises to sell their artwork.
Yes we do charge a portfolio review fee and the only reason we do that is because we got to a point that we felt that, although we make it very clear that there is a fee for our services, we were being taken advantage of by many artists who had no intention of signing and submitted their portfolios only in order to hear what we think about their work. We were overloaded by these portfolios and want the artists to show a certain commitment before we take the time to review their work.
If an artist is accepted and signs our agreement we deduct the $50 fee from the representation fee.
3 - My response to the comments made on this forum
Connie - your post is long so I will break it into a few parts
A - Connie wrote:
“It should be a strictly business decision, so let's see. The most expensive painting on your site is $400. Double that and say you show paintings there for $800. On each sale your 70% would be $560. So before making a dime, you would have to sell seven paintings just to pay off their representation fee”
If you are to treat this just as a strict short term business decision than I agree and in this case the odds are not very good.
B - Connie wrote:
"representation fee -- which would go even higher when they try to convince you to buy some actual promotion.”
We provide all the promotional services outlined in our representation agreement such as exposure on our sites, exposure on social media, printing of posters, cards and catalogs, ads and listings in various print publications, posting links to the exhibition on hundreds of sites and much more. We provide ALL of what we promise in the agreement and often we provide even more.
Why are you saying that we try to convince artist to buy additional services? what are you basing these allegations on? The only additional service that we sometimes offer our artists is to print their own personal color cards. These cards are included with some of our representation packages and, if your package didn't include them, we make you a one time offer to purchase this additional service. If you have any facts that we try to convince artists to, in your words “buy some actual promotion”, you are welcome to present them right here in this thread.
C - Connie wrote:
“Galleries are supposed to pay the artist, not vice versa”
In which law book is this written? We are a promotional gallery and we provide many services to the artist for which we ask for a fee - that’s that - who decided that there is only one model of galleries? Is there a law that determines that only the regular old model of art galleries is allowed?
D - Connie wrote:
“prey on the desperate, vulnerable or ignorant”
I agree that there are many scams that prey on ignorant artists who do not research before spending their money - there are people who open a space, make promises take the money and disappear quickly leaving artists without their money and without an exhibition - BUT THAT IS NOT AGORA GALLERY - we have been here for over 30 years and, god willing, will continue to do this for many years to come and continue to provide a transparent and honest service to our family of artists.
E - Connie wrote:
“One more thought: When most reputable galleries are flooded with requests from artists seeking representation, why is this one soliciting unknown artists?”
Seriously? You are really asking this question? The whole idea that we work mainly with artists who are unknown to the New York market - I totally agree that if you have a good client base in New York and a solid sales history in New York you should try to contact the more traditional galleries.
“I notice on their website they even have the nerve to charge artists a $50 fee just for a "portfolio review. " Ridiculous.”
What would you have done if everyday you were to get many portfolios and after taking the time to review them you were to get a response “there is no way I can afford your fees”..... but we wrote what the fees are on the FAQ page which we asked you to read before submitting... and we mention that we charge a fee on the portfolio submission page... And to all you cynics out there we only display artists whose work we think is good and has a decent chance to sell and yes, our director does review each and every portfolio and many are not accepted.
“they kept contacting me with more insistent emails.”
Kathy - I tried to research this as much as I could and all I can see is that we sent you the two emails that I mentioned above - you responded to the 2nd email saying you are not interested and, as far as I can see, we never contacted you again. If I am wrong I apologize and will appreciate it if you can send us an email to email@example.com and I will look into why this happened but as far as I can see this is just not true.
“Then I was invited through Facebook to publish my work in a "vanity" (my word not theirs) book to get my work seen for the minimum price of about $100.00. Also declined.”
Andrea - I researched this and have no idea to which offer you are referring but most likely it is not something we ever offered... from what I see we contacted you, you didn’t respond and we closed the process - that’s it. You are welcome to send us an email with the info to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to look into this but I am almost certain that we did not send this email to you.
“I had a spare minute (!!) and so replied to a solicitation from Agora. Explained how I viewed their vanity gallery profile.. (used very politically correct language) Received a scathing reply.”
Karen - I apologize if you received such a response but I researched this in every way I can imagine but can not find the email that you are mentioning - please forward it to us at email@example.com because a “scathing reply” is not something that we would send and if it ever happened I would like to look into this.
“It is a shame that artists are trying so hard to make a few dollars and an organization pops up like this that really takes advantage of us. But, no matter what field you are in, there are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. I appreciate reading everyone's replies. I feel more prepared with eyes open. I am curious If Nan could post her experience here when she goes to one of the receptions.”
Dee - I can’t believe you wrote “pop up like this”... we have been around for more than 30 years... yes there are operations that pop up, take the money and disappear but this is not Agora! “take advantage”... I I covered this subject earlier in my response. “goes to one of the receptions.” everyone is invited! we have great receptions and not so great receptions - life is life but usually our receptions are packed with a great New York crowd coming to enjoy the artwork and meet the artists. There are many photos on our site and I promise you that these are all real people
It is truly painful to read all these allegations when I know that our staff is dedicated and works very hard to provide our artists with excellent service.
The Internet contains allot of information and I think everyone understand that not everything that is written out there is true. All I can say is that you should seriously research who is behind what you read and try to understand their motives and assess how much credit you should give to what they write. There are sites that are hidden under private registration and have no contact information... should you listen to what they have to say? what do they have to hide? there are sites that are simply managed by lunatics and there are many places in which misinformed individuals write what they think is true but that is their own perception of things...
My thinking is don’t just follow the crowd... open your eyes, review the facts and make an informed decision just please think a little before you use words like "scam" "predator" and other such terms... at the end of the day we are trying to run an honest business with great employees and using these terms...