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LOS ANGELES — In an open letter released on Tuesday, a group of artists has accused Los Angeles’s CB1 Gallery and its owners Clyde Beswick and Jason Chang of financial wrongdoing. “[Beswick and Chang] have consistently failed to honor the gallery’s contracts, both written and verbal, with the artists they have worked with, resulting in financial damage and extensive harm to the studio practices among the community they supposedly foster,” the statement reads. Specifically, they accuse the owners of failing to pay artists according to their contracts, writing bad checks, and selling work without notifying the artists.
In response to these claims, Beswick told Hyperallergic via email, “We are working hard to resolve any and all issues with the artists whose work we have shown. We truly love the art we have exhibited and respect the artists. I will not be making any further statement at this time.”
Although slow payment for sold work is a far too common reality in the gallery world, many artists reached by Hyperallergic said the situation with CB1 went beyond what they could reasonably tolerate. “Clyde Beswick and Jason Chang owners of CB1Gallery should be in jail! You have sold my work and never paid me,” wrote artist Michael Mancari in an Instagram post. “Despite having filed a lawsuit against them, they blatantly have refused and ignored signed contracts and settlement agreements. The lawsuit will continue. You can run, move or close your business but, I won’t stop until I have justice!”
This is not the first time that Beswick has been accused of financial impropriety. Two decades ago, he served 13 months in county jail and state prison for embezzling and filing false tax returns, according to Carolina Miranda’s 2015 LA Times profile of Beswick.
“People warned me, but I said, ‘people change.’ It’s so disappointing, and terribly sad,” Jaime Scholnick told Hyperallergic. She signed the letter in solidarity with the other artists, saying she had been fully paid by the gallery but only after repeated requests and bounced checks. “It was humiliating to have to beg for money, I left him about two years ago because of that. I had no idea he owed so much money.”
New York-based artist Amy Yoes had a solo show at CB1 in 2011, for which she says Beswick agreed to split production costs with her for an ambitious site-specific installation, an agreement she says was never honored. “No one has ever owed me money for seven years. It’s absurd,” she told Hyperallergic. “It’s not a huge amount of money compared to what others have lost, but it has been annoying. Regardless of the amount, if you make a promise, it should be paid. Nobody said running a gallery is easy, but it also is very difficult to be an artist and have your work basically stolen. No artist agrees to have their work on display just for exposure. Exposure doesn’t pay my grocery bill.”
Mancari told Hyperallergic that he left the gallery in September of 2017 after not being paid for a painting from his show earlier that year. He filed a lawsuit in December after hearing that the gallery space was up for rent, fearing that Beswick would “skip town.” After starting a thread on his Facebook page, several other artists came forward sharing stories of being owed money by the gallery. “I never wanted or intended to post this. I was very reluctant. I feared, like others, the backlash and negative fallout on my career. I felt I couldn’t remain silent and let these thieves take, in my case, 100% of the money for my hard work,” he told Hyperallergic via email.
Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, who has shown at CB1 on multiple occasions, said, “As an artist working with an emerging gallery, I understand the financial uncertainty and precarious art market I went into, so I approach my partnership with CB1 Gallery with grace and patience.” Segovia did not sign the letter.
Another gallery artist, who asked to remain anonymous, likewise did not sign the letter, but said they had not been paid for a year either. “I’m still processing the whole thing. I would love to have the money back, but I didn’t sign it because I felt it was a generic letter,” they told Hyperallergic. “He really tries on a personal level, but on a practical level, he wasn’t realistic about what he could do financially.”