In any ecosystem, a surplus of prey leads to new opportunities for predators

June 14th, 2012 | Posted by Alistair in exhibition | gallery | slideshow

Thanks to one of our ever-growing digital scrapheap of tip offs about horrifying art world practices- seriously, we are collating all of these and someday we’re going to publish the ultimate directory of art world wrong ‘uns- I am not at all proud and indeed somewhat disgusted to introduce the SUPER-CONNECTED, GLOSSY-MAGAZINE-HAUNTING, RELENTLESSLY SELF-PUBLICISING, CAPS LOCK-LOVING SAMIR CERIC AND ZOE KNIGHT, AND THEIR DEBUT CONTEMPORARY:

I know we should play the ball and not the player, hate the sin and love the sinner, hate the game and not the playa, etc… but seriously, what the hell? This picture- and the fact that it’s one of the first things you see on their site, a site that’s supposed to be about developing the careers of artists, and the fact there’s pages and pages of other images of them and their press clippings here- certainly tells me a lot about them.

But instead of speculating about the creative possibilities of shop dummy wigs, plastic surgery, Photoshop and still choosing all your own clothes even though you’re red/green colourblind, or even asking “Debut Contemporary what?“, let’s hear from the “TOP TASTEMAKERS” themselves. Note that the blaring, almost unreadable ALL CAPS FORMAT, clumsy English and grammatical errors are in the original text:


I wonder which one of them is the wolf, and which is the badger?



The whole grisly, depressing site and what’s written on it pretty much hoists them by their own petard, but I will leave you with a few questions:

From this list ( of DEBUT ALUMNI, how many have had a consistent record of commissions, sales, group or solo exhibitions, or other working opportunities subsequently? That they didn’t pay for our of their own pocket, I mean? Getting a brief mention in a sidebar of Marie Claire also doesn’t count as an exhibition… sorry. Unfortunately this kind of information is not available on Debut Contemporary’s site.

Do you think these testimonials from ART EXPERTS are convincing or show any semblance of objectivity and/or credibility? (

“DUE TO THE RECESSION AND HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT”, do we think it’s appropriate that only those with money to burn can try to buy their way in to a profession that most of the people who actually work in it agree should be about artistic merit?

Is an artist really an artist if they’ve bought the opportunity to “SHOWCASE THEIR ART IN A PRIME LOCATION AND WITH A FULL SERVICE OFFERING THAT REMOVES ALL THE DIFFICULTIES OF SETTING-UP AND RUNNING AN ART BUSINESS”? Surely this makes them a hobbyist, a customer, and not a professional artist?

In this weird photo, also from the Debut Contemporary site, are we witnessing white-coated, scientific art mentoring? Or did the unfortunate woman on the right wake up eight hours later in a public toilet thirty miles away, with no memory, an empty bank account and missing a kidney?

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140 Responses

  • Alistair says:

    I just noticed “HUSBAND AND WIFE DUO”- this of course distinguishes them from all the husband and wife quintets, husband and wife regiments and lone husband AND wife hermaphrodite singles out there in the art world. Very special and unique snowflakes.

    • MC says:

      Could be read that they work together, like husband and wife team?

    • Marc says:

      I know the girl in the picture and she has done just fine generally and was quite positive about them. Having said that I’ve met Samir and had some hesitations about signing up etc… Of course you can say the tastemakers can seem distasteful, but I don’t agree that the model of artist as victim
      gallerist as exploiter always holds water.

      • admin says:

        … neither do we, that’s why we recommend that artists don’t make themselves victims or work with anybody who is known to victimise artists. Artists are not necessarily powerless unless they make themselves powerless by being naive, desperate, uninformed, isolated, etc. There are artists who have good, fair, productive relationships with galleries/gallerists and don’t get abused or exploited. We have met with and dealt with some of the good ones through our public programme. Anyone who won’t give you the kind of straight answers our guests gave does not have the interests of artists at heart.

  • I hate them.
    Love from
    Charlie Gates.

    • admin says:

      We’re hearing that a lot of people hate them, Charlie, so perhaps there is some hope for the art world after all.

    • Julie says:

      Hello Charlie Tuesday Gates – love your work, thanks for commenting and making yourself known. Have you worked with mink? I’ve got a couple I’m hesitant to do alone due to the scent gland stories I’ve read about (this is a serious comment).
      You might like this. Or not.
      best, Julie

  • admin says:

    From their LinkedIn page ( ) some details that aren’t on their main site about how much artists actually pay to participate :
    “All artists on the scheme pocket 80% of all sales but must invest between £75 and £125 a week in order to be offered a place on the scheme.”
    This makes £900-£1500 £3900 and £6500 per year, per artist. It would be interesting to find out what the different levels of “investment” represent to the artist. This listing of their current customers – – has 47 artists, so this = £3525-£5875 per week or £183,000-£305,000 per year.

    • admin says:

      Oops, yes, slip of the finger making the Wolf and the Badger look as if they’re making less money than they are! £75 x 52 = £3900 and £125 x 52 =£6500, of course.
      Hands up, who wishes they had at least £6500 totally disposable income per year?

  • Julie says:

    So 47 artists can ‘donate’ around a quarter of a million GBP to these jokers.

    Please ARTISTS, everywhere, stop signing up to this shit. Call the Market Project hotline (coming soon!) if you think you are anywhere near tempted…

  • James Scotland says:

    Sounds like sour grapes to me. Next you’ll be saying that much embraced projects such as ‘The Other Art Fair’ are a rip off at over £1000 for 3 days – what’s the pro rata on that? Or that all the open calls and submissions that you have to pay (£15-£40 each piece) for just to enter your work to be considered for selection should be scrapped!

    This is just a model in an ever changing art world, it’s not for everyone (me included) but if it’s so crap why is it supported by some pretty influential people/websites (Fad/Toms)?

    I’m an artist and EVERYONE wants a slice of the cake these days! Don’t talk about artistic merit, I know loads of awful artists who are considered ‘established’ and many more talented artists who never get a look in anywhere, ever.

    As an artist you gotta pay and I wouldn’t look at Debut Contemporary as being that much different to many other ‘new’ ways of presenting art. You obviously have some personal issue with these guys, maybe you were rejected or your own work isn’t up to scratch but at least show some comparison with the different models that are out there.

    And by the way, I sell in galleries that take 50 and 60% commission, even if I sell work privately that they have consigned – how fair is that?

    Good to see Charlie Gates on here – Charlie, let it go and move on! Sheesh already.

    As a foot note I think your piece actually almost reads as an advert for the gallery especially as you’ve put so much of their website on there.


    • Alistair says:

      Ah, the sour grapes gambit, how I love to see it trotted out- as it always is- in an attempt to stifle all debate without actually bothering to refute or disprove what’s being said. I’ll only speak for myself: I don’t want to be involved with these people or with people like them either in my work or in any other aspect of my life, and I’ve never tried to be. My grapes are sweet and luscious and unsullied by any concern whatsoever about what TOP TASTEMAKERS think of me.

      Let’s try it the other way around: perhaps your comments are sour grapes that you have to pay in order to get your work seen, and because you’ve rather foolishly entered into very unfair and exploitative relationships with galleries who sound like they’re ripping you off? You can walk away, you know, and it sounds like you should.

      You’re also a bit confused about the word “merit”. Matters relating to taste are of course subjective, so there may well be successful people you (or I) don’t recognise as makers of good work, or people you (or I) think are talented but criminally overlooked. We can have our opinions, of course, we can see how things fit or don’t fit with current discourses and aesthetics in the arts, but these things can never be judged entirely objectively. Nobody’s keeping a universal yardstick of Good Art and Bad Art somewhere, for everyone’s reference.

      The merit I’m talking about is being ready, able and willing to conduct oneself as a professional instead of like a desperate wannabe or a hobbyist. Lining the pockets of egocentric, greedy Notting Hill clowns who want “a slice of your cake” is none of the aforementioned things. Shrugging and saying “that’s just the way it is, I’ve chosen to do it so everyone else should have to” is also none of the aforementioned things.

      It’s only an advert for them if you’re the kind of idiot who’d fall for it.

    • Alistair says:

      And finally, you contradict yourself from one paragraph to the next, James: first you say Debut and its ilk must be right because they’re supported by “influential” people … i.e. you’re suggesting that a person who is successful and influential is by definition meritorious and right.

      In the next paragraph you complain that many established artists don’t- in your view- deserve their success… i.e. you’re saying (rightly I think) that just because a person is celebrated and does well, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at what they do or that their success is deserved or has been earned.

      So which of these positions is the one you actually believe? They can’t both be true.

      (Fad is presumably, “for high net worth art patrons who enjoy the social aspect” – ugh, another vile symptom of the Notting Hill Trustafarian let’s-open-a-boutique lifestyle. Probably friends of Wolf & Badger. No idea who or what Toms is but at this stage of the game I’m not really trusting your taste and discrimination very much)

  • James Scotland says:

    ps – do you know how much it costs to rent a place in Notting Hill? £60-£100k pa, take into account other overheads, costs, taxes and it ain’t actually as much as you might think! Good luck.

    • Alistair says:

      Then I suggest you don’t rent a place in Notting Hill, Zoe. Sorry, I mean James. Are we supposed to feel sorry for these penurious, oppressed martyrs for art, forced at gunpoint to rent in Notting Hill? Come on.

    • annabelle shelton says:

      Thank you James for opening up the debate i think the point here is that it is not acceptable for gallerists and opportunists to see a business in making money out of artists. They are like big ugly leaches harvesting on dreams and aspirations whilst massaging their own egos. Most of the time they fail to deliver and i feel sad that you accept this as the changing world we live in and appear happy for this to happen. As for the entry fees i am happy to pay for some and look into where the money is going. And James Scotland i have googled you and cannot find you as an artist?? Interested in what you do as an artist……

      • Alistair says:

        Annabelle makes a really good point about the failure to deliver- that’s the crux of the matter. If somebody’s paying £125 a week then they are clearly a customer and they deserve to see concrete, verifiable results and returns for their money. Debut show no evidence that this takes place, except in terms of Ceric and Knight having some nice premises and expensive clothes to show off while they’re publicising themselves in glossy magazines. I’ll ask again- how many of Debut’s clients have careers/businesses as professional artists as a direct result of their £75+/week “investment”?

        I was also interested in what kind of work you do and where, James, and I was also unable to find any trace of you. If you’ve worked with any galleries that are really good, do well for the artists they represent, and conduct themselves honourably, we’d love to hear about them too. Feel free to post some links in the comments here. We will post them for a low payment of £150 per link. Hope that’s OK with you, your previous comments suggest that it will be.

        I too am completely fine with the principle of entry fees, people covering their costs, people making a living, etc. if- as Annabelle says- the transaction is equitable and fair on both sides, and it’s clear where and by whom the money is being earned and spent. Of course that’s OK, because we all need money to survive.

        But a great many so called “opportunities”, “courses”, “competitions” and “offers of representation” are nothing but scams or lotteries, either overtly or tacitly. Every professional artist should boycott them.

  • Jane Firman says:

    As someone who has run a business for a number of years and always maintained an interest in: business – generally; and also, art; artists; galleries; business development; opportunities; publicity and freedom of expression. I have read many scathing comments by over zealous, jealous ‘loser’ type organisations – but I have not ever come across such a distasteful vitriolic abusive article as this – composed by ‘someone’ at the Market Project Economical and professional research by artists; which I consider to be totally unprofessional and backbiting. If this article was written by an artist – maybe they should stick to art!

    The swipe taken at Debut Contemporary is unprofessional on every conceivable level. Not only is it a childish and ill-advised attempt to draw criticism it has a tyrannical and oppressive style. It is one thing to place an account fairly for people to make their own decisions but quite another thing to condemn and sneer at an organisation attempting to draw a new model that will provide a forum for artists. Could it be that the has-been people running the Market Project are too pedestrian to move with the times and so utterly sour that their own outdated work is being sidelined? Whatever their reason for stooping so low – they should take a long hard look at what smallness they have reflected back on themselves and what meanness of spirit they have achieved in provoking responses.

    Furthermore, can they hand on heart say that their organisation is so squeaky clean with the way they organise and run their own affairs that they can take time to criticise anyone else. Perhaps they should spend their time more productively tending their own financial affairs and mediocre attempts in trying to make a difference for the artists they represent rather than their current bitter and parochial tactics against other people in their own art-world.

    • Alistair says:

      Thanks for devoting so much time to composing your response, Jane. Since we’ve stooped so low, you really shouldn’t stoop to our over zealous jealous loser, tyrannical, oppressive, has-been, pedestrian, outdated, sour and bitter level, though.

      We’re all practising, working professional contemporary artists, each of us with between ten and twenty years of experience. We do reasonably well, are respected by our peers, and we have work on quite frequently or in the permanent collections of businesses, private individuals, galleries and museums throughout the world. Some of us also do a great deal of work in our local communities, with young people, with otherwise excluded groups of people, and with other artists and professionals in the hope of making things better and sharing the wonderful transformations or insights that art can bring into everyone’s lives. We also think that other people in “our own art-world”- especially our younger and less experienced colleagues- deserve not to be exploited or otherwise led to their own failure and ruin by people in whom they’ve placed too much trust.

      How about you?

      If it’s “our art-world”, incidentally, then surely we should be able to do what we want with it?

      Along with the sour grapes gambit somebody else has already tried to use, tactic B for strangling all debate and criticism at birth is “you’re not perfect so you don’t get to criticise”, tactic C is “never mind what’s wrong, mind your own business”. Neither are an acceptable substitute for genuine thought, dialogue and progress. Don’t try these at home, anyone, unless you really want a divorce. If, as you claim, you value freedom of expression you have to accept that other people are free to express things you don’t like, in a manner you don’t approve of. You are either a student or work at Cambridge University, or at least you use a email address, so I’m very disappointed that you don’t seem to appreciate this fundamental corollary of the oft-used and evidently less frequently understood mantra “freedom of expression”. Don’t they teach debating, logic, ethics or rhetoric any more?

      In any case I’m sure Ceric and Knight are quite capable of defending themselves if they want to (or care about criticism). They seem to be doing very well, I’d say. They probably don’t need or even particularly appreciate people like you throwing yourselves onto the barbed wire for them.

      PS: I’m making a badge that says OZJL (OVER ZEALOUS JEALOUS LOSER). Thanks also for that wonderful- albeit inadvertent- bit of poetry.

    • Julie says:

      I’d argue that these guys are not “attempting to draw a new model that will provide a forum for artists”. They are exploitative, they are working with an antiquated MBA style, capitalist model. Nothing new about it. In fact I’d say it’s pedestrian in terms of innovative thinking. Truly new models are being prompted by the people involved in this kind of event:

    • Alistair says:

      PS, Jane: Doesn’t somebody you know very well work for them, or has done previously? A little bird tells me that’s the case. If so, your response is hardly the principled stand you’re making it out to be.

  • Julie says:

    Please can I have one of those badges.

  • In the sluice inbox this morning:

    “Dear Sirs
    Surely you cannot wish to work with such an unparalleled unprofessional organisation such as Market Project. Aligning your name with theirs is
    certainly going to bring you into disrepute.

    Please read an article they feel justified in publishing on their website:” [links here]

    Sluice would like to confirm that we are indeed proud to align our name with that of Alistair Gentry and Market Project.

    • ZeitgeistArtsProjects -Annabel Tilley and Rosalind Davis are also proud to align ourselves with Market Projects.
      A project with vision,integrity, intelligence, experience and Jane, they are very well respected in the art world as artists in their own right and for the valuable contributions they are making to the art world.

    • Julie says:

      They sent an email to Sluice but have not managed to reply to us?
      Behind the scenes shuffling rather than an open discussion with the artists who are raising questions… this is playground behaviour. Next someone’s mum will be calling Market Project’s mum.

  • Absolutely agree – this is the worst kind of cynical and exploitative business that is using the naivety of some artists to make some crazy profits. After I wrote about it on my getting paid blog I’ve been emailed with numerous horror stories – both of experiences paying for a service that people felt was never delivered, and of bizarre interviews that seemed to use intimidation and belittling as hard sales techniques. Thankfully I also have people email who have been approached by DC asking my advice, which is to STAY AWAY. There is plenty of sound, free or subsidised advice and training for artists in this world that doesn’t involve lab coats.

    • I totally agree Emily and we have been advising artists not to be involved with them. the artists who have have come to me with some tragic stories about how they have been treated and law suits being slapped on them when they challenge this POWER DUO is incredulous.
      Please do pass market projects info on about this organisation

    • Alistair says:

      Thanks for your reminder of dealing with DC on your blog, Emily. I’m sure desperate emails trying to blacken your name have already gone out some time ago, so please feel free to post a link to the blog here in the comments if you want to.

  • Most of the artist-led organisations I work for provide professional practice advice (both through physical events or online toolkits) for early career artists, either for free or for very low costs. Any fees involved go straight back to the artists who run or contribute to the programmes.

    Here’s some links:
    DIY Educate -
    Engine Chat Chat -
    Artists Talking -
    Knowledge Bank -

    I do think it is worth pointing out that there are artists out there who have had positive experiences of Debut Contemporary. However, the scheme is definitely not for me. 80% commission and £125 per week costs (can they confirm this?) is pretty damn steep. My advice is to do yourself a favour and join a decent, supportive studio group that offers the opportunity to exhibit and supported residency programmes. Bow Arts, ASC, SPACE…there are plenty out there.

    It’s definitely cheaper.
    At the end of the day, the choice is yours.

    • Alistair says:

      Good point about choice, Jack. Nobody is “tyranically” (thanks, Jane!) trying to forbid anything- but if people have incomplete information then they can’t make informed, intelligent choices. I’d just like people to be able to make informed, intelligent choices that are right for them, and not just for somebody else’s bank balance.

      The figures apparently charged to artists are on Ceric & Knight’s publicly viewable LinkedIn page (not on the DC site, though, as far as I can tell… which is where they probably should be prominently displayed, no?), so they’re from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    • You say that there are artists out there who have had positive experiences with DC Jack, care to share? it would be good to get anecdotes from both sides

  • Steve says:

    I confess I’m a bit late coming to this discussion. However, £125 a week and 80% mark-up is not as much a rip-off as some are making out. It seems to me that artists have been so protected from the real world by the good years of public funding that the idea of other people making money out of art is a hideous crime. The reality is in many other manufacturing industries (including farming) this is normal practice. Ok. So you say art isn’t a manufacturing business. Great if that were universally true. I see so many artists making work just to sell. Is that so different? I’m sure there are ‘artists’ out there who do very well from this scheme. It certainly isn’t a rip off. It seems pretty transparent to me.
    Do I think it’s evil? No. It’s a business. It makes money. Get over it. If you don’t think it’s compatible with your practice, don’t go there. It’s simple.
    Would I have anything to do with it?

    • Alistair says:

      Good points and fair comment in some ways, Steve- but I still think you’ve still slightly missed the point. I certainly don’t have a problem with businesses or businesslike behaviour. Indeed I am on the record in numerous places saying that I wish many arts organisations DID have a bit more business sense.

      If there’s a clear client/customer vs supplier relationship, i.e. I pay you something and I get a product or service in return… that’s a perfectly legitimate business in any sphere of endeavour, including the arts.

      If I pay you something and I get nothing in return, or it’s not clear what I’ll get and when, or I get less or worse than was promised, or I get actively abused (see Emily’s account), exploited and then cut off or threatened when I’m no use any more or my money has run out… that’s the kind of business that we would generally call a racket or a con trick, and the best we can say is that we are not dealing with an ethical business.

  • Alistair says:

    Thanks for your support, everybody, we appreciate it. What’s more important, though, is that people continue to speak out- and speak out more often- about some of the abuses and malpractice that’s been allowed to go unchallenged by too many people for far too long.
    “All that is required is for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” attributed to Gandhi although it wasn’t him, true anyway…

  • Julie, I have nothing constructive to say to you at all. I neither have the time or energy to waste on telling you how much money time and pain this ‘organisation’ has caused me. I was in my first year out of art school, naive, competitive and saw that David Theobald was on it which made me think it could be legit because I looked up to him because he was a great artist. I was wrong. We were both wrong. From first hand experience this is not a platform which helps young artists. I was living on £11 a week for months because of them, out of my stupidity I have learned my lesson in being young and naive. I have spent enough of my time typing about these awful people but I do have to say something because I hate them.

    I just cannot explain how awful this place is, and it was the biggest mistake in my career.

  • David Peace says:

    Spare a thought for the poor saps you refer to as ‘idiots’ and ‘hobbyists’. Most are fresh out of art school or late comers trying to make their way in the world faced with a dearth of opportunities, I don’t agree with DC but put yourself in the ‘New’ artists shoes. Maybe you can highlight the alternatives?

    • Alistair says:

      I’m afraid the alternative to buying a (probably spurious and illusory) shortcut, David, is boring old hard work, perseverance, constant improvement and learning, all based on an underlying talent… and if necessary, making your own opportunities and carving out your own space as an artist without expecting to buy all these things ready made from anybody who claims to have the magic bullet.

      Some of the contributors to this page have also already highlighted low/no cost organisations that offer unbiased, fair, honest advice to artists who are just starting out and might be unsure what good practice is, what is legal, what to expect from working with an art gallery, what steps they should take to develop their careers, and so forth. Market Project’s public discussions often share this sort of information, too.

    • Alistair says:

      Also worth noting is the fact that just above your comment, David, Theresa very humbly and honestly admits that she now feels stupid, naive and wrong for having dealt with them and given them her money.
      So I don’t think it’s too out of order to suggest that a person would have to be stupid, naive and/or wrong to get involved with an enterprise like DC, especially when it’s obvious that there’s a huge and growing amount of negative word of mouth and outright horror stories swirling around them, stories that no amount of shooting the messenger will dispel.

  • So there are some mentions of DC in my Getting Paid blog of old in posts #269, 268, 260, 258:
    and it also gets discussed on Susan Francis’ blog in post #63 (including their very interesting correspondence:
    Theresa also wrote a very honest and revealing blog about her experience – I hope you don’t mind me posting it here Theresa:

  • Let us not forget Cathedral of Shit and their remarkably tactful way of summing things up :D

    • Alistair says:

      Now THAT’S how you really do “unparalleled unprofessional” and “over zealous jealous loser”- ness. Makes me seem quite temperate. Bravo. Not that I disagree with anything CoS or any of their commenters say there.

      CoS is/was not me, by the way. Some people have asked. I’d be proud to admit it, if it was true.

  • Julie says:

    And from May 2011… the unconstructive but pretty funny:

    (warning post contains explicit language)

  • Alistair says:

    Absolutely the last word on our commenter Jane Firman, she of the “jealous loser”, “utterly sour”, etc, and the nasty secret email campaign of which Karl England’s specimen is but one example among others that we already know about and probably several more that we don’t yet know about.

    As I intimated yesterday, all the evidence does indeed point to the fact that Jane Firman is the mother of Sophia Victoria, Associate Director (i.e. an employee of) Debut Contemporary.

    Interestingly, Sophia Victoria’s LinkedIn page gives a slightly different (higher) costing of DC’s services to that of her bosses: £75-£145/week: they say £125 is the top whack.

    Firman’s comment should be read in light of this information, so readers can decide for themselves who’s really using “bitter and parochial tactics” and being “unprofessional”.

    When we see comments like Firman’s (especially hers, but also mine, and everybody’s) and with opportunities that are offered to us, we should always follow the ancient and superb practice of asking ourselves “cui bono?”- who really benefits from what’s being said or done or offered?

    Luckily “cui bono?” has nothing to do with U2.

  • Anon says:

    This has made me so happy because of the amount of shit Samir put me though and it’s not even the money, they psychologically fuck you into thinking that without them you will never make it, so you just go on an on. Samir talks such shit and never lets you get a word in so before you know it you;ve never had the chance to raise any issues you had. Please do not sign up with these cunts. They also tell massive lies. Half of the stuff on there isn’t even true. SO fucked up. STAY AWAY!!!

    • admin says:

      After some debate we decided to approve this comment, despite the fact that it’s anonymous and more angry than constructive. And it has lots of swearing. We thought, however, that it still made a valid point about how very abused, bullied and angry some people have felt. But in future we would prefer people to put their real names to any stories about working with Debut so these stories become evidence and data that is useful instead of anecdotes that could be dismissed by supporters or staff of Debut as – our catchphrase of the week- sour grapes.

  • george says:

    Anyone had a positive experience with DC out there?

    • admin says:

      George, thanks for this comment because it’s a really good issue to raise. Although it seems a bit unlikely that anyone has been happy, with new negative ones coming to us almost hourly, would any client of DC like to tell us what good came of it for them?

    • there are lots of positive ‘anonymous’ testimonials from artists on their website, which I find odd

      • Alistair says:

        Yes, how strange. I can understand somebody wanting to hide their identity when they’re being negative, especially in the art world where a lot of people are scared of their own shadows and absolutely bloody paranoid about being blacklisted, but why would somebody hide their identity when they’re being positive? Testimonials of that nature are always fishy.

  • OK – a lot has been said already, and as Emily Speed says, I came up against DC some time ago and did engage Zoe in a conversation back and forward via email about their organisation, challenging them on a number of issues, following an ‘invitation’ for interview. We agreed to disagree.

    I’d like to widen the focus beyond DC though as, despite perhaps being an extreme example they are not alone in profitting from artists. Instead let’s shift the focus onto equipping young (career wise as graduates span all ages) artists. I have benefitted immeasurably from the numerous artists support networks mentioned above, most of which were free, some of which cost a small sum which was negligable in comparison to the invaluable advice I was given. I have had mentors give their time and energy way beyond what their position within these organisations called for.
    Ambition and drive can be a really powerful and necessary force in early career artists but how much education is given on how to handle that when leaving college? Do students know about these support networks? Unless colleges equip artists with the tools they need to navigate through what can be a minefield, they are going to succumb to programmes such as these, which in turn guarantees such organisations their success. The more information we can get out there, making the whole system more transparent, the more positive, alternative structures will continue to shape opportunities. All I hear from the college students I know is ‘I must have a website’ but when I ask them are they linked to other students and artists via etc or are they aware of AIR, they look at me blankly. I’m sure this isn’t the case for all but some are just not preparing artists for the real world

    • Julie says:

      Susan – great response. Market Project is working towards being able to help artists at all stages of their career, this is key to everything we’re doing here. We are a diverse bunch with a whole raft of experience that we want to share, and our research is about establishing how to do this, and what is needed.
      There is a responsibility for art educators to prepare the graduates, but also artists themselves have a responsibility to look after and mentor each other and engage in high quality peer support.
      Most of my career I have been heavily aided by my peers, right now I am in New York for the summer creating new work, this is directly through peer support and networking.

      • I think you’re right to invite us to look beyond just DC as an organisation inappropriately set up to financially benefit from/exploit (mainly younger, recent graduates) Susan. And to focus on finding ways for students/artists to benefit from alternative FREE ways of seeking professional development/advice (such as the ones Jack mentions above – thanks for the links btw).
        I also think there needs to be more awareness within educational programming of how to survive being an artist outside of an institution ‘bubble’. I teach on a BA Fine Art course and try to instill in the students that peer-to-peer support is crucial and this happens at grassroots level (from the diversity of people who are on the course, in the room) – playing to each others strengths and skill sets. This is a particularly tender time for artists, who are impressionable and possibly naïve. There are so many things to take on board, not least how to carve out a career. Perhaps students do have an unrealistic impression of what being an artist involves. Why?
        There does seem to be a rise in early stage artists seeking quick fix answers to all sorts of (financial) questions – (mis)driven by the art market, commercial gallery sector? The product over process debate always rears its head.
        I agree with Julie’s latest comment that much responsibility lies in artists adopting a DIY attitude and this is easier if carried out within a supportive peer led atmosphere and network. Historically this has been an incredibly important link in the arts ecology and seems even more so in today’s economic climate

    • there’s no point having a website in isolation it needs to be connected to a wider network. The same can be said for making art

    • Alistair says:

      Good points, Susan, and not just because I say these kinds of things all the time! And sometimes when I say them people who actually work in arts education get incredibly prickly, defensive and evasive about it- so that’s one thing they and everybody else needs to get over, because having ambition, creativity or a really firm idea of what you want your practice to be means nothing if you’re not putting the pieces together in such a way that you can keep going, get seen and make a living. Or, even worse, if you get hung up on a false idea of what an artist is or should be and it drives you to stupid, self-defeating actions.

      As you say, not everybody is teaching their students the bigger picture beyond the art itself, and that’s doing students, new artists, art lovers and all of us who work in the arts a grave disservice.

  • Anon says:

    I know swearing and being angry was not constructive but to be honest I felt so silenced and scared that it felt like a huge relief to see this. I have legitimate issues and serious problems as a result of working with these people but do not wish to expose myself as I don’t think it will help me at all. And this is why so many people have not said anything because they think it will make them look bad. Samir and Zoe just do not have any real art world connections, they think they do but I know from experience they’re just two people who want to make money. They do not care about art, they do not know anything about art, they are total con merchants. That is just a plain fact.

    • admin says:

      We’re not that bothered about the swearing! And it’s understandable, and very common (and wrong) that so many people are so scared of looking bad… because so many other people are also scared. Vicious cycle that we need to break. Who exactly are we all looking good for? Thanks for sharing your thoughts anyway.

    • Julie says:

      I am sad to hear you got taken for a ride, Anon. It makes me angry because it isn’t just about the money, it’s the psychological abuse, damage to self-esteem and general well-being that these folk don’t take into account. They are Capitalist sharks, masquerading as big fish.

      (BTW: one of them has a Masters in Mathematics, which I guess makes them qualified to dispense guidance on the abstract.)

  • Jo Moore says:

    Not a lot to add to what’s already been said, really – and I’m speaking here more as an ethical person who is also an artist, as my path (the one I’ve chosen to take) does not really put me in the way of these kinds of people/institutions… but it seems to me that as long as we (the very very general “we”!) are holding up the commercial model as *the* model; as long as we are teaching our young artists that flogging works to oligarchs & ex-pat French bankers, or getting shown at Frieze, or getting commercial representation is the pinnacle of success, the highest attainment, then people like this, with their alleged fat address-books and monetised approach will always, always have leverage. Without wishing to get all grants-era student on you fine folk, it’s just another manifestation of the shark-tank of late capitalism. A commercial gallery is a sales floor, a showroom. Of course, there are lots of issues arising out of this – if the artist is to reject this model, how is the artist to make a living, and make work, in a country where even some fellow artists now seem to be opposed to public funding? Steve raises this point, to some extent, and I don’t really have any answers, other than to say that I’m sort of testing this out in my own life! But I suppose the idealist – the radical – in me says that we have to stand against this – because in the commercial system, the artist *is* a manufacturer, a producer of *product* – perhaps without ever being aware of this fact – and therefore is already being shoved onto an unfair playing field that is actually full of ravenous lions. And wolves. And badgers.

    • Julie says:

      Hi Jo, thanks for your comment, I completely concur. I guess it is this concept of art-world ‘success’ that enables a culture of exploitation. What is success to one artist is very different to another. What drives us? A desire for fame or fortune, well-being or sanity, great conversation, more solitude, control, clarity, adventure, curiousity, compulsion… we pick the ones that are important to us and push forward. When we don’t know what is driving us, why we are doing what we do, it becomes easier for external forces to step in and influence us… enter Debut Contemporary et al.

      Nayland Blake writes interesting and thought provokingly on the gallery as nothing more than a shop front here:

      • Thanks for sharing this article. I found it really interesting. I have been reading this debate. and just want to say well done Alistair for bringing these issues to light. It is a shame that naive and vulnerable people are being targeted. But there is another side to this, there are plenty of artists who can afford these fees, they make pretty, commercial work that is as artificial and hollow as the people who show them. Let the rich feed the rich. and make sure there is enough information out there for people to make informed choice, Keep up the good work,

        • James Scotland says:

          Sorry Joshua, just remind us how much you paid to be in The Other Art Fair for 3 days?

          • admin says:

            Devil’s advocate: We don’t know Joshua and we don’t know if Joshua’s work is commercial and pretty or not, but perhaps Joshua speaks from experience and is one of the realistic artists who knows where they fit and what their market is, so he feels able to make informed decisions about where to spend his money?

          • Yes, but i was aware of the costs, I can sleep at night knowing that I paid for the stall, catalogue etc… myself. I paid two thousand pounds. I was showing with 6 other artist’s and two contributed what they could afford. I plan to do other fairs, shows in the future and will plan accordingly. I knew what I was getting myself into and feel it was a success on many levels. I would also like to point out that during TOAF I was invited to a talk at DC on how to conduct and prepare yourself for dealings with scouts and dealers. TOAF sent a email around saying that the DC were acting unlawful in deceiving people that they were somehow connected with TOAF. I will no doubt make mistakes along the way, but its important that these things are exposed that people can make informed choice. I still feel that TOAF was a good place for me to show at this time. I would recommend it to others and feel some good things have come from it! I don’t hear the same being said about DC ?

          • admin says:

            Joshua confirms the devil’s advocate position… his explanation seems reasonable. Thanks for being so honest.

            Another very important thing to pull out from Joshua’s last comment:

            “TOAF sent a email around saying that the DC were acting unlawful in deceiving people that they were somehow connected with TOAF.”

            This is very very interesting information, Joshua. Do you have still have the email? Can anyone else confirm this? Anyone from TOAF or somebody else who showed there? Send it to us anonymously if you feel you have to.

          • James Scotland says:

            £2000 WOW! Thats a lot of corn! Fair play to you! You point is valid though and might it just be possible that many artists that have been with DC may feel the same? That they knew what they were in for and got what they expected? One can’t really use this forum as a gauge as coming in here and disagreeing with Market Project is like walking into the lions den! 

            This (art) world is big enough to accommodate good and bad, pretty or not art so let’s start by not maligning and marginalising fellow artists! Yes if a practice is wrong it should be outed but I’m still waiting to see what research you have conducted to come to your conclusions. You currently present 1% of their current and past artists calculating from their website (have to agree about the CAPS LOCK!) I’m don’t doubt there are others but I’m sure there are people that have had both indifferent and positive experiences. Regarding the email from DC to TOAF, not sure about that. Did it happen? Heard from anyone that attended?

            To end, here’s an interesting read:



          • Alistair says:

            I thought you were leaving the lion’s den, James. Feel free to do so any time any time you like. Disagreement is entirely expected and very welcome. Dean’s comment is lovely. More like this one, please. Sock puppet email accounts and astroturfing, however, are not welcome.

            The person who alleged that DC were told to stop associating themselves with The Other Art Fair has already been asked to provide some evidence of their assertion. It has already been said several times by ourselves and in other comments that we/they would love to hear from anyone who feels they had a good or professional experience with DC and that we will gladly publish what they say. We’ll also happily acknowledge and/or correct any strictly factual errors that are pointed out to us. So you’re being disingenuous and frankly a bit of a tool by pretending you’re the first person to encourage everyone to see both sides of the story.

            Thanks for proving I have fans everywhere, though, even among people who don’t really exist! Buy my book as well, it has lots of digs at people who think artists were put on this earth to make somebody else rich.

            Or I could come and review one of Debut’s shows for you if you like.

            Addio per sempre, si spera

    • Alistair says:

      Good points, Jo. The commercial art model works very well for a few artists. In fact the high-end commercial art world only has room for a few (living) artists, it simply can’t accommodate many more than it already is doing: one of the many reasons why trying to buy your way into somewhere nearer the top of the pile usually doesn’t work.

      Like Jo, this is not really my world because my ethics and my choices are highly unlikely to lead me there. But far from being a “jealous loser”, I wish the people who do work in that world every success and happiness. I’ll say yet again that I have no problem with people making a living and making a profit by conducting their businesses fairly and ethically. But one of the things that’s highly problematic about this commercial approach as a universal model is that it has a constant tendency to veer off from equitable exchange to become extremely asymmetrical in terms of money and power, i.e. somebody benefits hugely and somebody else (usually the artist) benefits very little or not at all. And then of course the parasites and predators come along, the people who can’t even say they started out with good intentions that have gone awry.

      It’s important to remember that economics only operates rationally and mechanically in theory. In the real world, economics and economic exchanges are ideological, interpersonal, irrational, psychological, gendered, contrary, erratic and subject to all kinds of unforeseen and unforeseeable factors. Whatever anyone might say or claim, spending your own money on things like DC in the hope of furthering your career is not like putting your money into an investment account with guaranteed returns. At best it’s like obsessively playing a fruit machine even though you keep losing.

      If we stand outside of this commercial system (and its parasites) by choice, by circumstance or by default, we are left with precisely the questions that Jo asks: How do we make a living? How do we keep going? What values do we want to hold onto?

    • MC says:

      The issue here isn’t with the whole commercial aspect of the art world, it’s with exploitation and a specific example of hoodwinking.

      It simply is not true that the whole commercial system is “bad”, and it’s unhelpful to talk in such generalities. Like every other part of life, there will be bottom feeders and greedy people. The key is for the artist to be empowered to recognise such people and be knowledgeable about alternatives. (please don’t use the word “institution” in this context, as I’ve seen no evidence to support that, I think you just mean “company”).

      There are plenty of talented and thoughtful artists who manage to use commercial galleries it to their advantage. Many of today’s best artists could not work without the support given by commercial galleries.

      • Alistair says:

        Wow, the misconception / misreading that I, or we as a group, or anybody else here is hating on the whole idea of working commercially or running a business really dies hard. You’re defending something that’s not really being attacked. This seems to be a knee-jerk defensive twitch that happens a lot, and has definitely happened a few times in this thread already.

        Although I think there’s a huge amount wrong with it in practice, I’ve said that I’m still not deriding the art business as a general concept, several times in this thread alone, not to mention elsewhere on countless occasions. Correct me if I’m wrong, but although people (including me) have said it’s not for them, I’m not aware of any other commenter here making a blanket dismissal of commercial work or commercial ways of working.

        So, one last time:
        Paying for services- services that you actually receive- is fine.
        Running a commercial gallery or being represented by one- fine, if the deal is fair and everyone involved makes a reasonable living.
        Entry fees for competitions, Opens and whatnot- fine, if it’s clear where and to whom the money’s going and that the project is credible.

        … which I hope will make it clear that I agree with you about artists being knowledgeable enough to steer around things that aren’t right for them, steer towards the things that are, and to outright avoid the villains. But we can’t all do that while so many of us (i.e. artists, people who work in the arts, and people who want to be either of the aforementioned) still stay silent and collude in allowing people to get away with opacity, deception, unfairness, bad practice and basically just lining their own pockets.

        • MC says:

          It was a reply to Jo delayed by comment moderation.

          • Alistair says:

            Of course Jo’s welcome to respond herself and perhaps she will, but I don’t think she was saying that everyone who works in the commercial art world is evil either, just that there are and should be and can be alternatives to that system… and that people who do choose to work in that system should do it with their eyes wide open instead of being as naive (or wilfully blind) about it as some of them evidently are.

        • MC says:

          Just replying to what is written. If several different people are reading an interpretation you didn’t intend…

          • Alistair says:

            No, it’s several people responding in direct contradiction of what’s written, i.e. leaping to the defense of the idea of being a commercial artist or running a commercial art world or of making money itself when those ideas have been explicitly and repeatedly stated as not being attacked per se. This may or may not be true of you, but in general I would say that doing this is a trait of somebody who’s reflexively defending an ideology and a way of life they’re comfortable with or aspire to, rather than reflecting a person who is actually engaging fully with the real issues being raised.

          • MC says:

            gosh, that told me.

          • Helen says:

            I agree with Alistair, making money is not the issue, for me there is a clear difference between gallerist and artists making money from selling work and organizations like DC that appear to make money by exploiting the hopes, desires and ambitions of their clients .
            What about that feeling that some, not for profit charities and institutions, whose administrative costs, which may be publicly funded, appear to be benefiting the ambitions of those running them more than the artists they are there for. Is it that the culture industry tends to be essentially ego driven?

          • can you highlight any examples Helen?

          • admin says:

            Careful! Opening another can of worms…

      • i think its about having an awareness of context for artists to make and present work and getting that balance right. That certain situations can bring about certain ‘outcomes’. Context is key. For example if I’m on a residency I am aware that this context is about taking time out to reflect upon current/past work, if I’m working on a project in an artist run space then this is a (recognised) platform to take risks, push boundaries, challenge new methods of working within a peer platform , if I’m in a curated group show in a commercial gallery, or at a booth in an art fair, then I am aware that the work has another ‘function’ where it will be viewed as a ‘product’ that might be bought. It’s probably taken me a while to come to terms with these different contexts for my work to operate in, but having/accepting clear definitions of what each one can offer is healthy and means I can continue to work across disciplines and maintain a portfolio approach to my career. The Nayland Blake link Julie refers to is a great read

        • Helen says:

          Name and take on an institution, are you mad? Now there’s trauma.
          But an example of where I think things can go wrong is when artists aren’t included or welcomed to meetings that decide policy, even though the organisation may believe they represent the artist. I’m sure a lot of organizations suffer in this way, when the people they are set up for aren’t consulted eg health, education …..
          I suppose it’s about democracy

  • Julie says:

    So I think it would be useful to flag up a paid for schooling/mentoring service that DOES seem to be run by artists for artists, and gives good value.
    The Turps Art School (from the Turps Banana magazine folk) looks great. It’s a rigorous selection procedure (I hear), and you get 12 months full teaching and mentoring and a studio space in London for £5500. This is cheaper than DC and artists that are accepted get full training by practicing artists. (They also do a 12 month correspondence course for £1500).
    Has anyone else got thoughts on this programme?

  • James Scotland says:

    My final point on your ill informed, poorly researched love-in is this:

    If so many of you are certain this is a scam, ruse, rip off, swindle, ponzi or whatever term you wish to use, I trust you will be presenting your evidence to Trading Standards at your earliest convenience, as if it is true that DC are not providing what they state they will, they are indeed breaking the law. Therefore if you truly care about protecting poor, naive artists you would have already been on the blower! Somehow i think you havent and wont be making that call. Here’s the link anyway to ease your fingertips:

    Signing off, James (King of) Scotland

    • admin says:

      I think we and all our contributors are actually doing quite well with collating all our research, don’t you James? We do hope that some of our contributors and any other readers who have direct experience (and evidence) of working with DC and are feeling they have been deceived or abused will make good use of the link provided by whoever James Scotland really is. Love is brilliant, by the way. You should try it.

    • Julie says:

      Just because DC appears to be operating legally, doesn’t mean it is acceptable. The thread seems to be exploring moral and ethical principles. There are many, many things that are immoral and/or unethical and yet legal, you may wish to research this to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the world.

      [BTW: Interesting that you chose to rebrand yourself as a monarch, you clearly have an affinity with the class divide despite knowing the term 'blower'.]

  • James (King of) Scotland you seem very defensive! It could also be said that if DC found any of the content slanderers or out of character they to could make a complaint. Is free speech and choice, a crime in Scotland or where ever it is your truly from? Love and respect

  • Hi folks,

    I realise I am pretty late to this conversation. As you can probably see on the list of alumni I took part in the DC scheme fairly early on. (i havent checked to see if my name is on )
    I thought about it for ages before signing up. I was dead against it when i first heard about it. I was also really wanting to move things forward with my practise and thought that just being a part of the conversation in London would be useful in terms of building a network. I am based in the mids.

    I dont mind your article to be honest. I think that running a scheme like this puts you in the line of fire.

    I would like to say though that the artists that I met were genuine , honest , hardworking folks who were just trying to navigate a career. I can only speak for myself but i think its true of the others that the intention was not to short cut as seems to be implied. I hope i am not unprofessional in my conduct either. Desperation , yea maybe a bit. I am hungry to create a life where I can paint full time so i may be guilty of a bit of that.

    for transparence I paid for three months and broke even due to a sale where i invited the buyer. (i think it probably helped seeing my work in the context of the gallery a bit)

    I didnt benefit in any other way ( I even broke a mirror on my motorbike commuting down!) I think i didnt really fit.

    I am serious about growing as an artist and becoming a half decent painter, I am less hungry for “making it ” now but it was an itch i had to scratch.

    I wont get into my personal opinions of the people involved as with all of us , they are multifaceted and shades of grey rather than the black and white of opinion we often get.

    I will say that Sophia was nothing but lovely in my experience.
    With hindsight i probably wouldn’t have got involved but i guess its part of my journey now and I met some nice people. I hope that I wont be thought badly of for making a wrong call.
    best wishes all


    • Alistair says:

      Thanks, Dean, for sharing such a honest, realistic and un-chippy account of your experience. More like this from other people with experience of DC is very welcome despite ‘James Scotland’ [sic] attempting to imply otherwise.

      • Thanks Alistair

        I have to say I was anxious about commenting ,all feels a bit hostile! but also pretty anxious about that people are thinking of me badly as my name is probably on the list.

        i appreciated your swift response!

  • just noticed the comments about the turps banana scheme I have to say that I this seems to offer genuine value from a development point of view. Had I not invested in DC i probably would have tried to do the correspondence course.
    shame. maybe in a year or two!

  • James Scotland says:

    Defensive? Hell yeah! And love is overrated.

    My allegiance will always be with the artist, not the gallery, curator, collector or whoever and I don’t like the way artists have been depicted on this forum whether they be considered good, bad, commercial, pretty, outsider or otherwise.

    That’s it, I’m outy :)

    • Alistair says:

      It has been suggested to me by a colleague that styling yourself (King of) Scotland makes you sound a bit like Idi Amin, as portrayed by Forrest Whittaker in ‘The Last King of Scotland’. Now I have a mental image of you that fits with statements like “love is overrated” or that you think being defensive is admirable. Enjoy the severed heads in your fridge, Idi.

  • admin says:

    Obviously somebody felt they needed to have the last word so they had to switch to another false identity. Anons with obviously disposable email addresses will not be posted and will be marked as spam. Strong opinions are acceptable, hiding your identity is not.

  • I’ve come to this conversation late but have thoroughly enjoyed reading through this lively discussion! Dean Melbourne, couldn’t agree with you more. I too am ‘alumni’ of DC. I tossed around the idea for months because of the expense but decided to go for it, not because I was stupid about the scheme, but because I thought being showcased in a Notting hill gallery might give me an audience to show and sell some paintings.

    I knew what I was committing to financially, as artists sometimes you do HAVE to pay out a chunk of cash, c’est la vie. I was just completely dissatisfied by their lack of knowledge, connections, clients or collectors.

    I would like to add a few experiences of my time during Debut Contemporary to shed light for other artists:

    1. In my DC interview Samir name dropped several blue-chip clients and names and commented how many people he knew and the sort of work I made would fit perfectly there, etc. He would introduce me to them, the projects would get bigger, and suggested several of my pieces already to put forward. My name. Would be. In lights. He made it sound like this time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires and I would be dancing off into the sunset after his enormous stock of collectors had seen my work. So I went with him on that magical ride grinning as I came out of the gallery blissfully unaware. He also told me he had hundreds of artists trying to get into Debut. So when you’re ‘selected’ you can’t help but feel a bit chuffed.

    2. For the money you pay you get a ‘measured’ wall space. But no matter how big your work is you get one piece hanging a month. Pretty much.

    3. Whilst I was there they hosted a show at OCCCA which (thank god) I was NOT selected for, I believe because they had already sniffed my resentment at the ‘course’ . Each of the artists involved in the London Calling show had to raise around £200 each to get their work shipped out to California where it went in a show, I believe purely for Debut to brag about how they had now conquered America. About 3 weeks ago I received a fwd email– from the Director of the OCCCA ( to say how ridiculous the situation had got regarding the storage of work not arranged to courier back to the UK and no luck getting hold of Samir. (No surprises there)

    4. Wolf and Badger have little or nothing to do with Samir. I called them because I was trying to hunt down Samir and eat him for breakfast chasing my deposit* (see number 5) The person on the phone at wolf and badger informed me Samir hadn’t worked there for over a year and the only affiliation was that he’d once done a little bit of marketing for them and that was it. So it was hardly his ‘brainchild’.

    5. Yes thats right upon signing the contract they take one months deposit to secure your ‘place’ which you then have to fight tooth and nail to get back. FURTHERMORE… IN SMALL PRINT of the contract you have to give them a FULL ONE MONTHS notice if you want to LEAVE the scheme after three months, which lets face it, you do because you’ve been living off noodles and are malnourished after three months. They do not remind you of this at all, at any of the weekly workshops, mentoring meetings or private views. This led to several angry artists. A friend of mine was late by just ONE DAY and they said for weeks that they were chasing it up with ‘accounts’ because they may not have someone to fill her spot. She never got her deposit back.

    In conclusion.
    Debut Contemporary was not a positive thing for my career, my soul, or my inner spirit.

    However the positive thing that came out of it was the lovely artist friends who I hope I will continue to exhibit with as we have done outside of Debut.
    Joining the DC scheme gives you a bond like no other fuelled by resentment, negativity and skint-ness. As the weeks progressed we developed a mutual feeling of being mis-represented and ripped off while simultaneously trying to see the positives because you’ve forked out the cash for it. That’s life, I guess, and I shall learn from this mistake.

    I was far better off without them, and would advise others to use their money elsewhere to progress. I only hope that my association with them doesn’t hinder my career and future prospective arts professionals and commissioners alike. We all make mistakes.

    Maybe now I can get back to painting.

    • Marc says:

      thanks for the appraisal Jenny, I met Samir and luckily he didn’t really ‘get’ the piece I showed him, he wanted me to go back with some other works, he said my painting looked ‘flat’ that made me chuckle a bit with hind sight… I do love a nice flat painting

  • admin says:

    Thanks for this, Jenny, and thanks for being honest enough to put your name to it. Very informative. It seems every new contributor has got an unpleasant new detail to add, this time we found out about the deposit…

  • I can confirm am email was sent out by DC in a bid to latch on to the less seasoned artist. Will further my comment later on today when at work.

  • Here is the mail DC, I could smell something fishy from a mile off.

    Hi there and hope your preparations for The Other Art Fair (TOAF)
    are going to plan.

    I just wanted to let you know that we, at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill (a couple of miles down the road from the Fair location) will be holding a workshop for all TOAF participating artists how best to leverage their opportunity at the fair itself, having
    to assume the roles of an artist, a curator and a gallerist at the same time. 12 Debut artists participated at the inaugural fair back in November 2011 and around 20 will be participating this time round.

    Two artists who were at the original fair will be present next Monday, 30 April 2012, between 12 and 2pm to answer all your questions as well as share with you their highlights and give you additional tips how to benefit more, alongside the Debut Director who
    will briefly talk about practical steps to improve your chance of success, maximise your sales and build relationships with collectors and other art professionals weeks and months after the fair.

    You will walk away with a very useful hand-out which will be come in handy before the fair commences. This workshop is free and you are more than welcome to attend. All you need to do is confirm your attendance. Unfortunately due to the limited spaces available,
    we will be running a first come, first serve basis policy.

    We hope you will be able to make it otherwise we wish you the best of luck with the fair and undoubtedly we will see you at the launch.

    Kind regards,


    I responded to the email as this was the polite thing to do, with thanks but on thanks. I did receive an email from Ryan stating the underhand nature of DC’s email.
    Luckily they didn’t hunt me down. They probably don’t see the a market for hangmans nooses.

  • Just to add to my previous comment of ‘underhand’ Ryan did not write this word in the email he sent. This was my take on the emai sent by DC. The email Ryan sent was very diplomatic. I would post it but it is Ryan’s choice to be involved in this debate or not.

    • Alistair says:

      Thanks very much for providing this information, Kate, and for supporting/corroborating the person who first provided the tip off about DC trying to “latch on” (to use your words) to artists from the Other Art Fair.

  • Alistair says:

    100+ comments on, I just wanted to be positive and thank everybody- even Jane Firman and “James Scotland”- for their contributions. I’d particularly like to thank DC’s “alumni” (sic) who’ve visited and left comments: some of you have freely admitted to feeling stupid, the rest of you I’ve called idiots anyway ;)

    In this kind of context, and because in my opinion DC sound more and more profoundly unpleasant and adept at intimidation or manipulation with every single comment about them here (including the ones from their friends and supporters), I think it’s incredibly humble and really classy of you all to be here, make yourselves known and share what you know and what you feel. I have a lot of respect for you and I hope you’re all now on a better, safer, happier path to wherever you feel you want to be.

    This is what a community of artists should be about: sharing information, looking out for each other, trying to get better all the time, and above all about ART and the people who love it… not about all the bullshit, deceit and nastiness that tends to accrete around it.

  • James Scotland says:

    I’d just like to say thanks to MP for posting my comments even though I have felt the need to shield my identity, I hope this hasn’t offended anyone too deeply and do hope that it’s lead to an opening of the discussion rather than closing anything down. You may sense more than a hint of cynicism in my comments and you may well ask yourselves why that is, I’ll leave you to your own conclusions.

  • Julie says:

    I echo Alistair’s lovely comment “it’s incredibly humble and really classy of you all to be here, makes yourselves known and share what you know and what you feel.” and add that if any of you have been subjected to other blatant rip-off schemes then let us know.
    Maybe we need to set-up a TripAdvisor style website for rating art mentoring services…

  • Sarah says:

    This has been fascinating reading, thanks guys.

  • Hello,
    Great post, seems to have struck a nerve. I thought I would comment here because I am one of the “ART EXPERTS” you refer to above in their testimonials.
    I spoke at Debut about a year ago, and had a good experience. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of really nice artists, many who have since joined – I found the Debut staff friendly, and the group seemed to be quite happy with the experience.

    I left that recommendation on the site at the end of my visit to debut, because from my experience, the artists seemed pretty excited about the platform. Perhaps this view changed once the program wrapped up? In any event it is good to see this debate taking place so that new artists can weigh up the experience of others before jumping in.

  • Stay Independent!
    Fuck 360 deals.

  • Oliver says:

    In my experience the people at Debut Contemporary are lovely and friendly, and will definitely try to make your time there as good as possible. You know in advance that you have to pay and when you sign a contract it’s your own responsibility as well. I don’t consider this a scam, they offer services for artists that are in demand and ask some money for that, not that different from what art schools and even fairs or many other galleries are doing. And only taking a 20% commission on sales seems to be much better than the average gallery.

    • admin says:

      Fair enough, Oliver, if that was your experience of it. But you’re missing the point a bit and comparing Debut to an art school is not a good comparison. British art schools are accredited educational institutions with national and international recognition. They have trained, qualified and experienced staff who do not profit directly from their students.

      There are people in the comments above who’ve described knowing in advance they have to pay for it and all the other things you mentioned. It wasn’t this aspect of the business that upset them, it was (from their point of view) paying a lot of money for the services you’re talking about but not getting them and feeling bullied, psychologically abused, exploited, let down or lied to.

  • Kat says:

    Hello, I was a bit dubious about signing with Debut Contemporary but in my experience it was OK, I was happy with the services I received and made more than my money back through sales. I wasnt looking for a shortcut just some much needed advise and guidance, which I got. All in all I had a good experience and met some great people who I am still in touch with. I know some people when I was with them werent happy with the scheme but I think they had unrealistic expectations about being fasttracked to success. Thanks, Kat.

  • I thought I should probably mention that both ArtQuest and a-n have blocked Debut from advertising or adding opportunities onto their websites ( which on a-n any subscriber can add an opportunity – though of course Debut use an artist as they arent ones themselves). These well reputed arts organisations have ethical reasons for doing so and have a massive reputation for helping artists and being artists focussed. That says everything you probably need to know about these so called ‘opportunities’

  • Feel Stupid says:

    Guys – thank you for this post and comments. I almost went there. For 3 days I thought this is a serious gallery and I was happy – Now I feel stupid :) Thank you for saving me a lot of money :)

  • Feel Stupid says:

    I must admit that DC SCAM :)) is a masterpiece. Congratulations Zoe and Samir ;) Maybe I’ll do the same thing in my country ;)) — Geniuses!!!

  • Feel Stupid says:

    You should add more TAGS to this post so people could find it easier. You’ll save money and self respect of many people:) ( The Power of Information)

  • Thanks all who took the time and effort to contribute – had an interview with Samir yesterday and feel like you’ve given me fuller answers to all those questions I wasn’t able to get to the bottom of in my 15 minutes with him.

  • C says:

    I was told at The Other Art Fair that Debut Contemporary is getting sued by one of their artists, and that they were trying to leech off the exhibiting artists there again.

    This post stays relevant, unfortunately…

  • S says:

    Thank you so much for this post and every single comment underneath.
    I got the email and attended the “interview” recently, and received the “place” today. I sensed fishy at the first place but thought it might help with more information so that ended up here. And the email which is asking me to pay deposit is too fishy to be looked at.
    And thank you for confirmed my thoughts and saving me from other following nonsense and money wasting.


  • N says:

    So apparently Samir wants to kick Sophia out now, and replace her with one of his precious interns. Classy

  • Joe says:

    Thanks for the post. I was about to waste time and money on this crap.

  • Julie says:

    Thanks for commenting Joe, we’re appalled at the continuation of the Debut Contemporary art scam.

  • Joe says:

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks. I applied to Debut Contemporary having not researched it properly, then I found out about the fees. I dismissed it then as a vanity gallery. But then I got a call from Samir to see if I was of “the right calibre” to go through his program. He complained about having to deal with artists that weren’t of “the right calibre”. A get out clause if people aren’t successful I guess. Of course they will credit themselves if they do have any success. I hate it if had credit any success I had to that guy with his ridiculous pink suits and preposterous quiff. “Oh yes, I owe it all to this pretentious poser.” Which is what they’d expect, otherwise your calibre would be called into question. Anyway, I went against my better judgement when he called. I got excited because I’d been selected to show in a London gallery, quite an effective confidence trick, appeal to someones vanity. He suggested there would be some “synergy” with a London gallery (which I won’t name.) that has offered to represent me in the coming year. Trying to align himself with something with which he has no connection, I have heard accusations on this page of him doing this with the Other Art Fair. Then they had to think about it (another con trick, they were probably phoning up all the others on his list.) A very chirpy lady phoned me up asking me to come for an interview in three days, which was a bit sudden I thought, I told her I would get back to her. I haven’t, neither have they tried to contact me, I obviously wasn’t that important to them. I chanced upon this page and a few others and I thankfully came to my senses. I’m grateful that I haven’t had to go through the same humiliating experience that others have. Oh, and by the gallery I spoke about, have since confirmed my doubts. They very politely dismissed Debut Contemporary, saying that they do not help artist who want to be taken seriously establish themselves, in the long term, in London art scene. That’s putting it mildly I expect. Thanks again for sharing your experience, it’s been very helpful to me.



  • Hello,

    I wondered when this charade might become unstuck. I read about them in the usual Open Calls on various websites.

    Arranged an interview being somewhat seduced, turned up with a piece of lace and a painting in the back of my car.

    After ten minutes of me explaining what I am essentially trying to communicate I was left staring at two mannequins who looked as if they might call security if I ever turned up to the doorstep of their house.

    Luckily, after hearing I could trawl the world of artistic discourse and look forward to being able to distill further my own ideas (This was my own head talking by the way) I decided, that anyone to ask for a ridiculous amount of money from an artist starting out, in return for a couple of drinks at a private view and the odd ‘Officesque’ Trade?? talk, is a sham.

    I declined.

    But thank you for highlighting them for others and it’s good to see your articles starting to receive the attention they deserve about this place.

    Word of mouth, although useful, only carries so far once the conversation has finished and everyone goes back to their own world.

    Plus, they’re creepy fuckers, anyway.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks for commenting David, it’s really important that these experiences get exposed.
      We agree they are super dodgy and exploitative.

  • M says:

    Samir Ceric is now involved in Artfix …I cannot see the figures adding up in this new venture either. They are planning on opening shops in central London to show art and performance. The paintings will be shown digitally – I cannot believe they will sell any this way and are expecting a huge fee from artists for this privilege.

    Have also been approached by Debut Contemporary recently. £95 a week and 6 month tie-in seems way too steep for an unrepresented artist to find.

  • Julie says:

    Artfix is run by which you can tell is an arts org by the amazing eye for design and use experience of the website. Outstanding.

    I found this:

    artFix Aims

    Art should not be confined to theatres, museums and concert halls

    Performances should not take hours to complete

    Art should not cost a fortune

    Art should not require planning and advance booking

    Art should not be something exclusive or difficult to enjoy

    Anyone care to comment? I’m beyond words.