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Orlando Whitfield — All That Glitters: A Story of Friendship, Fraud and Fine Art

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #89

Show Notes:

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Today, we sat down with Orlando Whitfield, author of the book "All That Glitters: A Story of Friendship, Fraud and Fine Art", where he tells readers all about his past as an art dealer, gallerist, and his complicated friendship with Inigo Philbrick, a disgraced art dealer who committed the largest art fraud in American history. In his riveting book, Orlando aims to dispel misconceptions about the art market while sharing his personal experiences within the market as well as the meteoric rise and downfall of his friend. An HBO series is also in the works based on Orlando's book!

In our conversation, Orlando discusses his experiences in the art world and his reasons for writing "All That Glitters". He also describes the unconventional path that led him to art dealing and why he wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a career for others. We also discuss the lack of regulation in the art market and how it can allow for artificial price inflation that often does not benefit emerging artists. Orlando also tells us about his perspectives on the true value of art and how working in the market can turn artwork into a disenchanting object rather than a part of culture or history. We then talk about the challenges artists face in the unregulated art market as we explore the role of galleries, social media, and authenticity. Orlando emphasizes the importance of working cooperatively with a gallery and reaching good compromises since he believes galleries have the most direct influence in an artist's overall success in the market. Finally, Orlando reminds us that one should do it for the love, and not for the money.

Orlando's book is due to be released in the United States on August 6th of this year.

Pre-order here:



Orlando Whitfield: 0:00

Yeah, it's a strange world, the art world, it's a little bit like an aristocracy that you never get to know what. You never get to know what the rule is until you've broken the rule. And this man broke the rules and he spent 90,000 odd pounds on art over four or five year period. And it's mostly worthless now. Like you couldn't resell it. So, you know, if I, as I'm, I'm writing this piece. I wouldn't advise anyone to go anywhere near the art world if they wanted to make money, because you have to be so keyed into that world because you I mean, you have to be, it's all about access. So

Laura Arango Baier: 0:44

welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier, and I'm your host. For those of you who are new to the podcast. We're a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. Today, we sat down with Orlando Whitfield, author of the book all that glitters a story of friendship, fraud and fine art, where he tells readers all about his past as an art dealer gallerist and his complicated friendship with Inigo Philbrick, a disgraced art dealer who committed the largest art fraud in American history. In his riveting book, Orlando aims to dispel misconceptions about the art market while sharing his personal experiences within the market, as well as the meteoric rise and downfall of his friend. And HBO series is also in the works based on our Landis book. In our conversation, Orlando discusses his experiences in the art world and his reasons for writing all that glitters. He also describes the unconventional path lessons aren't doing and why he wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a career for others. We also discussed the lack of regulation in the art market and how it can allow for artificial price inflation that often does not benefit emerging artists. Orlando also tells us about his perspectives on the true value of art and how working in the market can turn artwork into a disenchanting object, rather than a part of culture or history. We then talk about the challenges artists face in the unregulated art market as we explore the role of galleries social media and authenticity. Lando emphasizes the importance of working cooperatively with a gallery and reaching good compromises since he believes galleries have the most direct influence in artists overall success in the market. Finally, Orlando reminds us that one should do it for the love and not for the money. Orlando's book is due to be released in the United States on August 6 of this year. Welcome Orlando to the BoldBrush show. How are you today?

Orlando Whitfield: 2:44

Very well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:47

Yeah, I'm excited to have you, I got a chance to read your book. And I could not put it down, I would lose time completely just reading about everything that you went through. And, you know, your how your perspectives changed about the art market and how your own perspectives changed about art. And of course, me being an artist, hearing that from the perspective of someone who tried to be an art dealer or actually was an art dealer for a while. It's refreshing to hear a different perspective, you know, because you mentioned a lot to how you prefer talking to the artists, right? You prefer getting to know them, and why they do things. And that's one of your, I guess, one of the things that motivated you to which I enjoyed reading about as well. But before we dive into all of the good stuff, do you mind telling us why you decided to write this book and why you chose the title, All That Glitters

Orlando Whitfield: 3:49

was so I started writing about, I mean, I've been keeping notes for a very long time. I was I was I was aware enough, during pretty much the entire time I've worked in and around the art market, quite how strange a world it is. And also quite how fascinating a world it is for for for those outside it. And also quite how little people understood a bit and the misconceptions about it. Were really quite astonishing to me. When I open my own gallery, you know, talk to friends of my mothers and they'd say, Oh, so is it you know? Is it is it mostly your own art that you're showing in the gallery? And I thought like, you know, who thinks that who has been to a gallery where someone has just, you know, like, rented a sort of fairly expensive bit of London central London real estate in order to show their black holiday watercolors just that's another thing. So I was quite shocked by all of that and it also quite perplexed by how little you know, I think I say at some point in the book like there is no one up world at Worlds and having My background in the secondary market when I opened their primary market gallery in 2015, I really knew very few of my peers, you know, people on the London art scene, like Sunday painter gallery, or 17, or Union Pacific people who all said to become quite good friends, but they had no idea what I, what the secondary market was really how it operated. These sort of weird practices that go on, you know, somewhere between the auction house and, and, you know, the Mayfair galleries and the Upper East Side galleries in New York. And so long before I did my French accent on the art world, in 2018, I had started kind of keeping notes. And it was sort of all my always my intention to write about it writing was something I'd always wanted to do. And I, years before that, I tried to write a novel, which my then boss, I worked in publishing, and my boss there, my, the editor in chief of the company, read something that I've written and said, Excuse me, you know, you can write, but there's no life in this book at all. Why don't you? Why don't you go away and do some living? And, and then try and write, you know, just just pause for a second, which I found quite sort of upsetting advice at the time, but actually, it turned out to be, and I didn't, I didn't consciously heed it. But I, this this person is still very friendly and in touch. And she read the book recently. And she wrote to me and said, Well, you certainly went and did some living. You know, I think that the period that I spent kind of working with Indigo working in the art world was, yeah, had the feeling of several lifetimes. And as to all that glitters I mean, it's obviously it's a, it's a phrase, which is older than than Shakespeare, it's, it dates back I think, like, quite far back. And sort of, I think it's originally in some kind of Middle English poem somewhere. But also, Neil Diamond wrote a song of it. And there was a particular story, which you'll know from the book about gold, Rudolph single painting, which maybe I won't tell the story now. But if if readers are interested, that that story and that painting were. Yeah, you know, the phrase. Yeah, it captured a lot of what I wanted to write about in the book.

Laura Arango Baier: 7:42

Yeah, yeah. And I totally agree. It's very aptly named. Because from the outside, right, I read your book without having absolutely any knowledge about the secondary market, or even about, you know, the auction houses and the basically all of the ins and outs of how that little world works, which, you know, from the outside, you think, oh, I want to be in it as an artist, because you think as an artist, there's money to be had, right. But truly, actually, I feel like it's the artists that don't really get as much benefits from it as investors or as the wealthy, or even art dealers. So I do like the title reflects that. So clearly that it is you know, it seems like this glittering, amazing thing, especially, you know, like, I grew up in Miami, so I knew about Art Basel, I knew about all the fancy people who used to go there and be like, Oh, my gosh, maybe one day, and I could be part of that. But then, after hearing about how it really is, from your perspective, it does seem like it's not really that golden, you know, it does seem a bit like oof, maybe I would think twice about being in that world. Also, because, you know, I noticed that you did reflect a lot on how you felt a bit like an outsider and a bit like, you, you felt like a fraud, which I thought that was also quite fascinating. Also, considering the title being all that glitters, because it feels unfair, it feels. Yeah, like, I've seen clips of artists who see their own work, get sold in auction houses for ridiculous prices, and they get nothing out of it. Yeah, but I'll ask you about that a little bit later. I also wanted to know, because you do have a background in which your family was very involved with the art world. So I wanted to know why did you decide to become an art dealer specifically, like, when was that moment and then how exactly does a person become an art dealer?

Orlando Whitfield: 9:44

I don't know. I mean, I didn't really decide ever to become an art dealer. I think, you know, both the times that I got into it first when I was studying when I was at college and which is what I first met in ago. He, I think he had a clear idea that that's what he wanted to do. And I kind of followed on with him. So I was really only ever. At least in both those instances, I was I was very much kind of just following the pied piper, when it came to opening a gallery of my own, which I did in in with a friend in 2015, that that was much more of a as it were conscious decision that, you know, that took an enormous amount of sort of clandestine planning, and, you know, saving money and organizing a space and talking to artists. And that was, that was fun. That was really, that was the bit of the art market that I really enjoyed working in. So yeah, and how does one become an art dealer, God knows. And, you know, I couldn't recommend the method that I chose, which is to become friends with a deeply strange individual who, you know, is himself already kind of locked into that world. If you really want a cup of coming out, just just I mean, learn, learn life, learn why some things cost more than others and see everything you can, I don't know. It's not something it's not a career, I would recommend to anybody, but you know, you get to see some extraordinary things. And, you know, you get to, you get to travel quite a bit, if that's, you know, you get to travel in the army to so I don't know, it's, it's very much depends, it's not a great way to, you know, very few people get rich doing it. So if you want to, if you think that, you know, you're going to become one of these kinds of coffee Frenchmen who wander around the place, wearing, you know, loafers, no socks, and you know, with a black AmEx, you're like, you're not, you're likely to actually become, you know, what I became, which was the sort of struggling small business owner who works six, seven days a week for five, six years on end. And you just get messed around by very wealthy people who, you know, you know, they're there. And this is something I've sort of been reflecting on quite a bit recently, you know, you sell, you're selling a product that nobody needs, to people who don't need to care, they're so rich, these guys and I got so badly messed around by people who didn't even realize they were messing me around. Over the years, you have to have a pretty high tolerance for failure, because certainly, in my early days, like, you know, nine out of 10, Art deals just die. Because again, you're you're selling something no one needs. And it's often quite expensive. I mean, needs to be expensive, because certainly, when you're working in the primary market, you're splitting your, you know, you're splitting the cost of the, you know, you sell something for $1,000, you get 500. And the artist gets 500, which is fine. Except that, you know, because the way art will operate, now, the Art Fair model has meant that you have to go to Claire's the world over and, you know, most collectors are incredibly lazy and impatient. And so they need their galleries to be near all the other galleries, which means the rents have gone up. So, you know, it's, I mean, personally speaking, I think the 5050 model is kind of crazy. I think there should be an adjusted way that artists can, you know, maybe should be able to, like, you know, take less at the beginning, because, you know, I think it's becoming harder and harder for for gallerists to open galleries, but I think that what, you know, there should be some way of I mean, it's, it's just spitballing but there should be a way of adjusting the situation so that artists can earn money from their works in perpetuity, you know, that, you know, when as as, as you know, as you just mentioned, like, things selling at auction for 10s, or hundreds of 1000s of dollars, artists should be able to see some of that return. But also the way that the art market is structured now, I think it's, it's, it's becoming, you have to be you have to be pretty rich these days. Even to open up, you know, minor gallery in a small space miles away from the center of a city. It's, yeah, it's not working.

Laura Arango Baier: 14:45

Yeah, yeah, I agree. It's, especially now that the economy has really shifted. I feel like you know, early 2000s was much more different in the gallery world than the now especially also after the crash in 2007. And of course, you guys in the UK have of Brexit, which has also been really affecting the galleries and affecting primarily the arts, it's always the arts that end up failing, or like losing the most money whenever there's an economic downturn. And I agree, I think it would be awesome. Like, in one of the questions that I sent you, I actually added about, maybe if it would be possible or even worth it for artists to create some sort of contract, where they get 10%, post secondary market, like if their work gets to the secondary market, and they have to receive 10%. And I know right now that people can do that within fts. But it isn't so much happening in the real world. And I'd rather sell real art and get like real benefits from real art than NFT. Yeah,

Orlando Whitfield: 15:42

probably, as who's enforcing it, you know, you sign a contract, you know, I sell one of your paintings to, you know, this, some guy. And two years later, when that work has gone up in value, he sells it to another guy. It's a private transaction, it's pretty difficult to do that contract is between you and the first person, and you go nowhere policing it. And then there's a thing called artist resale. Right, which, you know, is when, when works could sell it at auction. There's an agency which will basically collect a certain amount of money, but yeah, in long term, it's not. Yeah, I mean, if I had to, if I had solutions to all of this, I'm afraid I would put them in the book, but I just don't.

Laura Arango Baier: 16:29

Yeah, no, I totally get that it is very hard. Also, because of the art market being basically an unregulated, chaotic mess, right, people can sell at ridiculous prices, to the point where I remember in one part of the book, it really struck me or you said, I looked at this canvas, and all I could see was the price. I couldn't even see the painting anymore. And that was that was huge for me, because, you know, it goes to show that, like, what exactly does value even mean? Right. But before we dive into value, I wanted to ask you actually, since we're talking about the art market, do you think it would ever be possible for it to be regulated? And is it even worth regulating it?

Orlando Whitfield: 17:12

I've no idea about, you know, how long would regulate a market? I mean, there are you know, as I mentioned in the book, I think the Canada already, for example, there is a there is a state law in the United States in sorry, in New York, which says that galleries had to put their prices, they have to have publicly displayed prices, but I'm sure you've been to galleries in New York, there are never prices displayed. Yeah, that's that's, that's been on the statute books, I think, since at least the 1970s. And it's routinely ignored. So you know, I think it's, it's the, you know, the appetite for setting up any kind of agency or, you know, you guys, you have the SEC, we have the financial Standards Authority. In the UK, you know, the thing is, you know, it's a massive, multi multi billion dollar global business. But it's actually it affects relatively so few people that I think the public any kind of political appetite to put to put in place regulation, with everything else that's going on in the world. I wouldn't, I wouldn't hold my breath. I be shocked if I see it in my lifetime.

Laura Arango Baier: 18:33

Well, we can hope we can hope we can be a little bit delusional, and hoped that one day maybe it could get regulated. Which reminded me Yeah, it also reminded me of like that conversation you had with the guy who worked I believe it was, was in a bank, and he was one of these. Yeah, the Goldman Sachs guy, and how he loved and hated that it was unregulated, the art market. Yeah. And basically, the art market is exactly like the stock market. I love that you made that comparison, because it is very much, you know, putting, like, basically, especially the part where people can buy parts of paintings, which I had no idea about that is so trippy. And then also the, basically the artificial inflation of the prices of artists were basically just so that someone could put it in a in a garage somewhere or in some sort of like, box and like never really see it and just keep it yeah, when they want to sell it. Which again, that's why it's it's so depressing. And the fact that it's unregulated is it's really sad to hear from me, like for me, like being an artist, right? And for other artists who are listening to this podcast, precisely because of that, you know, illusion of it being so grand and then really it isn't, and, I mean, I'd rather sell my work to someone who's actually going to hang it on their wall and love it than someone who's He's gonna buy it to sell it, you know, as an investment, quote unquote. Which, you know, brings me to this question, which is, when you first started, right, you had a particular, let's say, a particular perspective on value, right? When you started out with an ego, and how you valued work, right, what you thought was the true price of artwork? How did that perspective change from your time at any go to your time with Piers Townsend?

Orlando Whitfield: 20:34

I mean, I always had a difficult time, I was really good at selling artworks for like, anywhere between about the sort of five and $10,000, I was great at that, because that's, you know, it's the numbers I've felt comfortable with, it's the numbers, I was able to convince myself that certain things were worth. But when you get into the realm of saying, someone, you know, this painting, which was made three weeks ago, or three months ago, even three years ago, you know, I want half a million dollars for it, I was, you know, in order to sell these things that no one needs you yourself, really should be at least a little bit convinced that they, that they are worth that, and you know, you should, if you had the money, be prepared to be able to spend that money on those things. And I just simply wasn't, and so that was huge part of the reason I was never going to be a successful art dealer, because I could never ape or imitate that that conviction. I think working with peers was was really ah, don't know whether my sense or I don't know whether working with peers really changed my sense of, of artworks value. But they did. But that time that I spent in the studio, you know, peers is not only is very, he's done well in his life, and he's been professionally actually still professionally active at almost 80. And, but he's not, you know, he's not a wealthy man. And, you know, he takes great pleasure from these. From very small things, he has a kind of almost what's the word? I mean, he sort of, I mean, Zen like, is a sort of trite thing way of saying, but but he is, he has an appreciation for the small things, let's say, you know, good yogurt, nice bread, or sunset, you know, whatever the fuck it is, like, you know, he's not. He's the kind of guy who, you know, he could have a rent, you know, you could be working on a Rembrandt, self portrait, but he'd be more interested in a cat on the roof. Opposite, he's got an opposite his studio. It's not actually, you know, these things aren't necessarily impressive to him. Just a priori, they're not impressive because of what they are or what they cost. And I think that that was a philosophy that that I began to feel more comfortable with. And actually, then, really, I then realized that that was much more attuned to a lot of the art that I like, I mean, you know, really excited by you know, the work of people like Robert Irwin, but also an increasingly so. Our God, what are the names just kind of my head, amateur Goldsworthy. Andy Goldsworthy in America, I don't know, means work is actually quite well presented this work is in the National Gallery in Washington. And on various kinds of, you know, Sculpture Park estates and as in America, but he you know, he makes these extraordinary works especially up in he lives in Scotland now, and he makes these really quite beautiful works, most of which are only ever actually. They're ephemeral. They're, you know, he'll make a chain of yellowing leaves in gradation of, you know, from the green on the tree to the, to the brown of the almost rotting Lee. And these things are sort of beguiling But precisely because they are intentionally and always at the edge of their own destruction. Yeah, I think that yeah, there works that point to something outside of themselves. And I began to find those things more interesting. more exciting than many of the many of the kinds of big brash objects works, that those involved in the contemporary art market seems to be so perpetually in thrall to.

Laura Arango Baier: 25:19

Yeah, yeah, I really liked that you mentioned that about their work that it's, you know, it reminds us of life on Earth, right, I feel like those are the works that tend to speak to a lot of people that I guess in a more honest way, because in the art market, it does seem like it's usually, like you mentioned in the book, it's usually the loudest voice that gets all the attention or the loudest, you know, works. decided by the small few people who want to inflate those prices, who, you know, they say this is great. Whereas when you take the time to actually appreciate the work, and how it reminds you of the life that you're living, you know, kind of like what you're saying about Pierce, where he's more interested in a cat on the roof for a sunset, it's because it is that circular part of life of the cycles of life. And so much of the capitalist art market, in my opinion, is very much they think they're immortal. And it seems to like, like, it breaks all of the cyclical aspects of life, in my opinion, it seems very much like use of use and leave behind without the recognition that you use something and you have to basically sacrifice something for it, like you have to give a payment for it. But I feel like in this, you know, the more post capitalist world, it's a lot easier to just use abuse, and it's someone else's problem after, you know, which kind of reminds me of the way that you seem to also show how artists are the ones who end up losing, especially the young artists who get involved in the market, and they rise up really, really quickly. And then suddenly they get dropped. And their prices also dropped, which this is, you know, that's something that they tell us as artists, like if your prices drop, that's not a good thing, because your collectors who already have your work, will feel like they've lost as well. Yeah. What are some other ways that you say that or that you think and that you've seen artists end up losing in the art market?

Orlando Whitfield: 27:21

I mean, I think that's, I think, the way I mean, yeah, the way in which you just described I think, is pretty sort of feels enough. I don't know, I don't know how else. Artists are losing. I don't know, really. I mean, that presupposes that they are losing weight. I mean, you could spend, you know, six years in art school can't out, have a show, which is incredibly successful. The Works get off the market gets pumped, the works get dumped. And, you know, by the time you're 30, your career is over, and you've made precisely, you know, $20,000, or whatever it is, so, I mean, I don't know how much more or what else there is, but But yeah, I mean, you know, careers can can be made or broken with the stunning alacrity. And you know, it's never it's never the, you know, the people who profit, you know, that to buy and sell another day. Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, I'd have to think about that some more. I'm afraid I don't I don't, I don't. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 28:36

Yeah, no books, that's totally fine. Um, at BoldBrush, we inspire artists to inspire the world, because creating art creates magic, and the world is currently in desperate need of magic. BoldBrush provides artists with free art, marketing, creativity, and business ideas and information. This show is an example. We also offer written resources, articles and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush. And if you believe that to sign up completely free at BoldBrush That's BOLDBRUSH The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be a professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special link, you can make that come true and also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly e commerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor. The art marketing calendar gives you day by day step by step guide isn't what you should be doing today, right now in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link forward slash podcast, that's I mean, also, you know, definitely, I think, just in general, the artists stand to lose a lot. And you know, in all aspects since it, you know, when it's a rich person, maybe they lose like $50,000. And that's a dime for them. That's not much. But for an artist, it's like, their livelihood, their peace of mind as well. You mentioned also in the book, how, like, a lot of those artists, they either overcome that right, or they end up having a mental breakdown. And they quit thinking.

Orlando Whitfield: 30:51

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Laura Arango Baier: 30:54

Yeah. Which is really unfortunate. Because I mean, I think a lot of people make the mistake of wanting to become artists, thinking that they're going to be very, very wealthy as artists, which again, kind of like in the art dealer world, it's a very, very small number of artists who actually get to that point. And then it's an even smaller numbers go into the contemporary art market, because there's so many different little worlds in the art world, right? Like, I'm not in the contemporary market, I'm more in the imaginary realism or realism market, which is a lot smaller, a lot less lucrative. So that already limits how much someone in my position would be able to make. But yeah, even then, you know, it's such a small percentage that even make it that I think that if someone's looking to get into the art market, as an artist thinking they're gonna get rich, they're going about it the wrong way. Like, it's a little bit like you got to find.

Orlando Whitfield: 31:44

Yeah, yeah, if you want to get rich, go to banking, I've no idea. Ya know, very few people get rich, it's just that it's just the people who get rich in wells that the art world or any kind of kind of any kind of media world. You know, they tends to be a lot more prominent, glamorous, but you know, yeah, yeah. Don't, don't come into the I'm writing a piece at the moment for a British newspaper about how to become an art collector. And it's, it's well, I don't know, I mean, you know, I don't know, I mean, I worked with I had a client years ago. It was quite an unsavory man. He made his money, but he owns strip clubs. It was how he made his money. And he used to come to London. I mean, look, there's a market clearly, so whatever. I'm not judging him if he can do what he wants. But, but he used to come down to London, with carrier bags full of cash, and tell, you know, me and all of these young gallerists in London, that he wanted to buy, you know, young art, which was going to be his pension, essentially. So the moment we all heard this, basically, uh, you know, his his his intention to sell in, you know, he was not a young man. So whatever happened, he was going to be dumping this stuff within a within a decade. And so we all just sold him. You know, that was? Yeah, I'm afraid to say but I did. I did show once twice artists whose work I don't know, I didn't have as much faith in as others. Unfortunately, you can't have you can't have total faith in every artist. And we tended to just sell this artist work that we weren't, you know, we weren't necessarily going to work with the artist again, we weren't going to protect the market when the works came up at auction. And everyone did this. You know, several of my peers and colleagues in the London art world sold this man work, which never increased in value, but but people were doing that intentionally. Because they didn't like the way he was, you know, he was effectively declaring this to be his investment. And I think everyone, It's just strange. Well, the outline, it's a little bit like an aristocracy that you never get to know what you never get to know what the rule is until you've broken the rule. And this man broke the rules and he spent 90,000 odd pounds on our over four or five year period, and it's mostly worthless now. Couldn't resell it? And so, you know, if I as I'm writing this piece, I wouldn't advise anyone to go anywhere near the art world if they wanted to make money. Because you have to be so keyed into that world if he's you. I mean, you have to be. It's all about access. So, yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 35:17

Yeah, yeah. And as you mentioned in the book, that is the primary currency of the art world is access. Yeah. And also those, unfortunately, unspoken rules that people tend to break. And that's when we find out. Yeah, it does seem also very disingenuous to I mean, someone just walking in being like, I want to buy work that I can sell in a few years. Like, first of all, like, that's really dumb. Like you said, because how is he going? Like, how is anyone going to really know, 10 years down the line, if that specific artists work is going to be huge, especially when a lot of those artists, say like Damien Hirst, or a lot of these, they have connections that lead them to those much higher tiers, whereas the young artists who's just starting out, they don't tend to have that network, they don't tend to have those connections that get them, you know, up in the ranks. So yeah, I feel bad for that guy.

Orlando Whitfield: 36:17

I'm afraid I absolutely don't. Oh, well. I mean, I think I think, you know, a friend of mine always used to say that good artists show with good galleries. And I think you really can tell a lot by you know, there are certain galleries in New York and London that I we're going to see whatever they show, because I know them to be rigorous, interesting. gallerists or dealers. Whereas you so I think that, you know, that's a way that you can follow that you can at least start I mean, you know, make sure that you like the gallery, that you think that the gallery is doing good things, because if they're not, it's very unlikely you're going to you know that your work is going to the work is going to be treated well that I mean, all of these things, I think, yeah, good artists show with good galleries by and large. I think that's a truism. Yes,

Laura Arango Baier: 37:14

for sure. And also the fact that you know, a gallery that believes in the artists work as well, like how you mentioned, one of the first artists that you had in your gallery you really loved talking to him, and you would, yeah, you know, get to know you got to know him as a person, not just as like, oh, yeah, we will take your work, see if it like sticks, which, unfortunately, is something that's happening with a lot of galleries today, where they have a roster of like, 100 artists, to see which one sticks. And personally, I wouldn't want to work with that gallery, for example, but for sure, like you're saying a gallery that actually curates properly and takes care of their artists, and puts on a good show, I think that's worth a lot more long term, because a lot of artists they refer to working with the gallery is almost like a marriage. Because oftentimes, these galleries keep that artists, essentially for the lifetime of the artists or the lifetime of that gallery. So I totally agree with you. Which also brings me to the following question, which is, who do you think is, you know, has a much more prominent hand in the success of an artist? Do you think it would be like an art critic, a dealer, a gallery?

Orlando Whitfield: 38:20

I do think that critics really have an a role. Critics aren't making a market, they might they might help you. It's certainly not going to help, you know, the, the artist starting out, it's gonna, it's not gonna happen to sell work, it might some to go to help help to get some attention, but no, I think it's The Gallerist Absolutely, because that's, that's the person who is, you know, helping you as an art helping artists put together the body of work, it's oftentimes the person who is helping to fund the making of that work. I mean, I know of galleries who will quite often, you know, have artists on an almost like a retainer or a salary, so that these people can go and make their work and then that money then comes out of the, the money that the the, the work is, you know, that's, that's, that's a good, I mean, that's good practice. You know, that it's few and far between, because gallerist had to be able to afford to basically pay it pay a salary. Yeah, I think I think The Gallerist by binding, by all means, makes, you know, they're there somewhere between, you know, an agent and editor, therapist or spouse. You know, I can't tell you, you know, how much time I spent talking to the artists that I worked with, they were, you know, occasionally it's an odd relationship that a gallerist has with their artists because it can it can be almost one of parent and child, but that role can reverse quite easily. It's a weird power dynamic. Yeah. Who is it that has the power here? You know, it's this kind of like, guest host thing. Yeah, that's a that's a convoluted way of saying, yeah, it's definitely gallerists. I mean, curators obviously help, but, you know, by the time you've got, you know, if you're an artist at a promising career you, you know, it's gonna be a while before you get in front of, you know, get anywhere near a curator. But it's gonna be in any way, you know, changing the way that your career is panning out. It's, it's an art, it's a it's a gallerist for the first decade, and that's always going to be the formative time.

Laura Arango Baier: 41:01

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I mean, if a gallerist is the one that's also, you know, putting money into advertising for that artists and putting them out there. Like, I know, for example, artists who were very little known until their galleries took them, for example, to the LA art show, and then they blew up. Because a lot of people go to the LA art show to see the work there. And I agree, you know, sometimes that relationship can be complicated, I don't know, maybe you might have some experience with that, where I have had a friend who they work with the gallery, and the gallery has told him, oh, paint me another three like that, because I could have sold that piece like three times, and then suddenly, you know, the artists, authentic voice and the things that they want to do kind of gets buried under a little bit of that capitalists mentality of give me more of this one thing? Have you ever had an experience like that? Or do you normally did you normally just let your artists express themselves as they wanted,

Orlando Whitfield: 42:00

I would never be quite so direct. In telling an artist that, you know, pay me three more in the blue ones, because, you know, for example, now that most of our world is, you know, it's on this phone, right. And most works that, you know, one sells to the gallery sell to collectors are seen initially. On a screen is your first impression, which I mean, this is really only in the last let's say 15 years of the art market has just been true, what most collectors first impressions of work they buy is on is on a screen, the size of their hand. And, and the way that, particularly iPhone screens, and I talked to many people in the art market who have Android phones, but Android phones may be completely different. But the iPhone is for I don't understand the technology, or the reasoning why, but it's it, it shows blue better than any other color. And so blue paintings have historically since they have been since the iPhone since the advent of the iPhone, and this is especially like selling art on Instagram and putting it blue art sells more. Work with blue in it. Right? There's been articles about this. I mean, you know, maybe everyone's just kind of over it. But I'm fascinated by that idea. And so, you know, I used to and I used to have clients who would say, I would I really want that blue one. Everyone always wanted the blue one and was like particular shows the weather. And I could have gone to the artists and so you paint me three more blue ones. But I would never do that. But I certainly have been in a position where I've been in conversation with an artist about doing a show. And I've gone to the studio and the mayor say I was looking at like, you know, say there was an artist who was mostly working, mostly making paintings, and I thought I loved the paintings and I could sell the paintings, right? And then I and then you know, six months later, the artist says, oh, you know, I've been working on some stuff and I'm feeling good about the work and you want to come and see it. It's a bit of a departure and you go there and they're making, you know, black sticky sculptures and he's just like, No, I can't sell these. It's a totally so at that point. Yes, I would get involved as because, I mean, you know, if you're wealthy enough to do this for love than then go for it. It's mostly love. But you still have to keep the lights on you know, we've all Yeah. So no, I would never have I would never have had such a direct conversation. But there are ways that you can make it clear that if you say, you know this, if you're lucky enough to be in a position where making art is your is putting bread on the table, you better be you know, you better be up for a conversation with the person who's going to be doing the selling for you. Because they know, you know, in the same way that, you know, when I was writing my book, I haven't, you know, I can write, but I can't write a book. I've never done that before. And so when my editor made lots of suggestions about the first draft and the second draft, I listened to my editor, and I allow, like, and I trusted that they have my best interests at heart. I think, yeah, if someone's telling you make more blue paintings, they probably don't have your best interests at heart. But by all means, make big black sticky sculptures. It's just so few people are going to sell them.

Laura Arango Baier: 46:05

Yeah, yeah. It's what you said, you know, it's about the love. And also, you know, how I said earlier about how you don't, you know, go into painting to get rich? And I have interviewed a

Orlando Whitfield: 46:16

lot, do you not?

Laura Arango Baier: 46:18

Yeah, I have actually interviewed a lot of artists who do make a living from from their paintings, which is also quite nice. No, they are not in the contemporary world is a much smaller realism world. But it is a possibility. And I guess the most important thing, too, is you know, that that authentic side of painting, it's like, are you painting for the money, because if you're painting for the money, you're gonna lose, because you're gonna burn out, you're gonna hate it. And if you're gonna do that, you might as well get a day job that you're going to equally hate and at least you get a paycheck. With art, you probably won't as easily. Yeah. But there's hope. I mean, I have seen, you know, painters who they told me Oh, yeah, you know, I'm, I'm pretty much sad, and I'm able to have savings. But that's after like, a 10 year career minimum of getting their work out there and working their butt off, essentially, and also catering a little bit to the market. Especially like, if they can find a way where, like, what they love to paint and like, the market, you know, they fit together, that's like the ideal, which doesn't always work for everyone. But, ya know, and I love what you mentioned about, you know, the galleries not really having the best intentions, if they're trying to tell you what to paint. Because again, it becomes a little bit inauthentic. And I personally wouldn't want necessarily a gallerist to get into my creative side and tell me what I should be doing. As if I was like, a common employee, you know, it's like, we work for each other, right? Because, I mean, the, the gallery gets their cut, because they're supposed to be putting in the effort of finding buyers and like, putting the artists work out there. So it does feel a little bit unbalanced if a gallery works like that.

Orlando Whitfield: 48:09

Sure. I think, however, you know, people can be selling these works, you know, galleries is going to know what's going to sell. And at the end of the day, you say that the artists and galleries work together. And that there's no point. There's, I don't think there's any point in a gallerist not being honest with an artist, it is, you know, it's an editorial relationship. It's a, and it's one, like all relationships should be one where people you know, should be able to compromise. You know, I had some pretty mad requests from artists of like, you know, could you block that window up? And could you, you know, I mean, really quite crazy things. And most of them we did, and most of the time, it worked out. But, you know, sometimes I did things that I thought, Well, okay, this person may be a genius. And then it actually just turns out that they were just a bit mad, and I indulge their whim and, you know, lost a catastrophic amount of money. So I think everyone's got to, it's just about it's about compromise, and about having honest conversations, I think.

Laura Arango Baier: 49:24

Yes, yeah, I completely agree. And actually says, you know, you were a gallerist. I wanted to ask you, this is a bit of an extra question, but it might be of interest to the listeners. And that is, how would you recommend for an artist to approach a gallery? Should they just really like show up? Is it okay if they show up and have a conversation or

Orlando Whitfield: 49:48

what do you recommend? Well, in terms of in terms of being represented, but in order to work with that gallery, in my experience it's a It's a don't call us we'll call you situation. You know? I have never, I never took on an artist who, you know, just turned up at the gallery with a portfolio. Not that I wouldn't have, but no artist ever came to me in that, no one no one ever did that. And I don't know that that's okay, it may work for you. It may work for some people, but in a particular world that I worked in, you know, we were unfortunately all kind of fighting over the same few artists. So it was, you know, I was working in a very overheated market. Everyone was just trying to, you know, the moment that the Royal Academy show in the Royal Academy schools shows on, you know, everyone into the young gallerist elbowing each other out the way to, to sign up, whoever. So? Yeah, it was never something I experienced, you know, people coming to me with with work, but, I mean, obviously, why not? But yeah, it never happened to me. So I couldn't, I couldn't, you know, I mean, most of the Gatton most of the artists that I ended up showing came because, you know, this artists that, that I worked with Chris Paige, who was the first gallery and first artist that I showed at the gallery, and we ended up showing two or three of his friends. And it came it came quite organically like that. And I liked that because it came out of, you know, one conversation after another.

Laura Arango Baier: 51:39

Yeah. Fascinating, and also how you mentioned that you guys were actually, you know, like the galleries were mostly fighting over the same few people. What really influenced that? Because I mean, today, of course, I don't know if maybe this also influenced your decisions as gallerist. But today, of course, we have social media. And I have found that people who have large social media followings as artists usually gets get approached by galleries to work with them. Is that something that you also experienced?

Orlando Whitfield: 52:11

Yeah, I mean, social media was was was, was definitely a thing, but it's not. I mean, you know, I haven't worked as a gallerist. Since 2018. And Instagram was a thing. Then I saw I saw pictures over Instagram. You know, people who would write you know, you'd put up exhibition shots or, or, you know, photographs of artwork online, and you get a message. But, yeah, I mean, social media in the art world is not something I'm unfortunately, particularly. It's not something I know enough about. To be able to say, but yeah, I mean, I'm sure. I'm sure that the more following, you know, the bigger following you have, the more art you're going to sell them. It's just it's. But, you know, if you have 20,000 followers on Instagram, it doesn't mean you got 20,000 buyers, you know, they're not the same thing. Because just to come back to it like you, it's a product that nobody needs. And so the moment that, you know, there's a downturn in the economy, the mark the art market, is one of the things that that, you know, the upper echelons because people are because people are investing in it, and they're making good returns in the market has been on a bull run for almost 30 years. That market will go largely unaffected. But, you know, it may weaken and soften a bit. And there's definitely a correction do. But yeah, I think I think people can be too focused on social media in you know, I mean, I've found this since I've been writing as well, you know, it's a useful tool, but I think people can be occasionally over, reliant on it, and also become, let's say, convinced that it's more real than it is, I think, and and become convinced that, you know, I've got 25 million followers on Instagram, I must be the greatest artist in the world. It doesn't mean anything.

Laura Arango Baier: 54:20

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I agree. Yeah, it's, I mean, it has its benefits, of course, because you're, you know, you're putting your work out there, and people can see it a gallerist can see it. But then also, you know, it's a bit of that ego play, which also tends to happen in the art market, with artists and dealers as well, where, you know, twice the pride double the fall. So, but I totally get that. And then I did want to ask, though, is it is there anything that's an upside in the contemporary art market? Is there anything that you would say is actually quite positive? Or is it just most The bleak.

Orlando Whitfield: 55:03

Yeah, I mean that this, this, this, this great art being made and shown. I mean, you know that my book came out of a difficult time in my life. And, you know, it wasn't a book about the good side of the contemporary art market, but it's very much there. I mean, there are wonderful people operating at all levels of the art market. And I hope that I hope that the book isn't isn't doesn't portray it as a relentlessly bleak world. It's incredibly fun, sometimes. Yeah, no, yeah, I think as long as you make sure that you you know, in whatever capacity you work in the art world, if one does forget about the money. It's not the real stuff. Although it can, you know, unfortunately, yeah, too often, you know, the money can feel like everything. It's just not.

Laura Arango Baier: 56:09

That's very well said, I completely agree. And, you know, again, that's, that's why people become artists, it's for the love of it. Not so much the money. And it's better to not delude yourself about the money, like you're saying. And by the way, I wanted to know, because you were saying that, you know, you wrote that book in one of the most challenging parts of your life. Was there one specific part of the book that you found most difficult to write?

Orlando Whitfield: 56:36

Yeah, I find it quite difficult to write about my father's death. Yes.

Laura Arango Baier: 56:44

Yeah, that that was really heartbreaking. And my condolences, of course. And it's understandable to you know, losing someone like that. Yeah. And you were also going through a tough time personally, while that was happening, at least, when you were, you know, in the book. That's what it seemed like that it was all around. Yeah. A hard time for you. Yeah. Yeah. Was there a part that was most positive, though?

Orlando Whitfield: 57:15

Yeah, working with peers was really the main amperes is still a very close friend we see each other is, you know, once a week. And, yeah, you know, that was a wonderful kind of redemptive experience. A moment at which, or at least a period of time in which I really fell back in love with art, for art's sake, I guess, for the sake of the objects themselves, I had to kind of get in, it seems that I needed to kind of get in contact with the actual physical objects in order to do this everything. You know, I mean, you know, as I'm sure you all know, you know, the contemporary art market can be quite steroidal, you know, all the work is, is brand new, or at least, you know, that's, that's, that's the way it's meant to feel somehow. And it's very protected. It's behind, you know, not that it shouldn't be but, you know, if you're constantly seeing things behind velvet ropes behind glass, you know, I read this interview with Martin Kemp. This is DaVinci expert, and then other Tenshi. And, you know, I've seen the Mona Lisa several times, and it's it's completely unremarkable, right? Because it's always surrounded by, you know, endless people with their iPhones and whatever. And he said, you've never you hear this this extraordinary kind of disquisition on what it's like to see this thing out of its frame. And to be in it's this sort of small space with this extraordinary thing. And it just says, you know, it's beyond anything that you really it's obviously an incredibly famous painting and there are obviously different reasons for the fact that there's there you know, it's not it's, it's famous for, for reasons not connected to it, its its its status as an artwork, but rather its status as a cultural object. And I think, you know, I had lost sight of those things, as you say, you know, a lot of a lot of the work that I was seeing, I was seeing as its price tag, those two things were so inextricably linked, and once I was out of that I think I got to see work again, I got to see again,

Laura Arango Baier: 59:46

yeah, yeah. See, clearly again, you know, the, yeah, the whole reason for why the market even exists. I mean, without the paintings there would really be no market, right? Yeah, so it's a good point. Um, And then also the actual real Mona Lisa isn't even on display, but the one that they have up is a copy. Because the real one is so yeah, yeah. That they usually keep it away from light and flesh and all of these things that can deteriorate. The real painting at least that's what a conservator friend told me. She told me Yeah, but that's not the real one, the real put away too delicate. And seeing that that would be amazing. You know, seeing a painting that's like, there was that scene in your book, actually, where you mentioned, how the people who deal older masterworks say, like Turner, Rembrandt's. They carry these paintings around, you know, like, under their arm is like wrapped in newspaper, whereas in the contemporary art market, it's like these delicate white gloves, they have to, like, take care, and they put the paintings in these temperature control bands. Which seems a bit topsy turvy, considering, you know, these paintings by the old masters have lasted so long, and you would think they're even more delicate.

Orlando Whitfield: 1:01:02

Yeah, but they tend to be worth you know, they tend to have lower price point.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:08

Yeah. Which makes honestly no sense to me. It's a I just find it funny that it feels a bit like one is for show, right? Like the the contemporary side is a bit more for show. And a bit more of like how you said, All That Glitters versus, you know, the masterworks that have survived so long. They are themselves, right, it like this is it kind of thing? There's no real show. It's just the amazement of how long they've lasted. And also the cultural importance of these artists. Yeah. And I also wanted to know, how have you moved on from your time in the art world? And how have you found peace after the fact?

Orlando Whitfield: 1:01:56

Well, I mean, I'm still still talking about it. So I don't know whether I've moved on precisely. But have I found peace? Peace presupposes I found peace. Which I'm not sure I have, necessarily, but I don't know writing about it. Yeah, that's definitely that's been helpful. I can I can recommend writing a book.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:24

Yeah, yeah. And I find it you know, so perfectly, you know, circular for you to have written a book, because you had started working in that publishing house. Way back then when you gave up arguing the first time with Inigo? Yeah. Were you like, No, I'm gonna go into writing and kind of seems very beautiful that you went full circle and went right back into writing. It's very poetic.

Orlando Whitfield: 1:02:48

Well, yeah. life imitating art and the other way around, I suppose. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Well,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:56

thank you so much. Orlando. Do you have any final? Yeah. Do you have any final advice for artists out there? Who are trying to navigate the art world?

Orlando Whitfield: 1:03:10

Goodness listen to your gallerist. But also listen to yourself, I guess. I mean, it's a compromise.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:22

Yes, definitely. Well, thanks again. And thank you so much for giving us some of your precious time to be on the podcast and you're probably busy doing a ton of interviews. And of course, your book. All That Glitters comes out in the United States, I believe August 6, so I highly recommend everyone. Yes.

Orlando Whitfield: 1:03:40

Thank you.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:41

Thank you.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.