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April 4, 2007

An LA gallery complains about KCRW's Goldman

In the wake of last week's NYT story on KCRW art critic Edward Goldman (and my post about that story) a Los Angeles dealer has told MAN that Goldman has engaged in ethically questionable dealings with his gallery. Based in Santa Monica, KCRW is the major National Public Radio affiliate in the Los Angeles area.

Goldman, who has been KCRW's art critic for two decades, also works as an art consultant for private individuals and for corporations, a highly unusual arrangement. The NYT story detailed how Goldman charges entry-level collectors $500 apiece for tours of Los Angeles galleries, 'classes' that Goldman calls "The Art of Collecting."

The gallerist, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity because he didn't want to anger LA's second-most prominent critic, says that those $500 tours that have led to his gallery's problems with Goldman. According to the gallerist, one of the collectors on Goldman's tour bought a piece from the gallery. Afterward, Goldman called the gallery to demand a 25 percent "commission" for the sale.

At most, art consultants receive 20 percent commissions on sales and their relationships with collectors and galleries are agreed upon beforehand. (Ten and 15 percent commissions are more common.) Consultants typically work between the gallery and the collector, handling billing and such. There is typically an agreement in place between consultant and dealer before a sale.

This gallery told me that there was no prior agreement with Goldman and that the standard elements of the consultant-dealer relationship were absent. Goldman did not handle billing or relations between the gallery and the collector. Instead, Goldman inserted himself only after the transaction was complete, essentially demanding a kickback for having brought the collector to the gallery as a part of his 'class.'

I tried to ask Goldman about this, but he failed to respond to several emails. KCRW general manager Ruth Seymour refused to talk to me (and thus did not know of this gallerist's allegation). She issued this statment through a spokesperson:


KCRW's policy for all its programmers is that if a DJ, commentator or critic benefits financially from the record or the subject that that he/she is playing or discussing --then the programmer must reveal that relationship on the air.

Edward Goldman has been KCRW's art critic for 20 years, speaking about the dynamic art scene that exists in Southern California. In all that time, KCRW has never received any information or complaint about impropriety or conflict of interest.

Edward is known to the galleries, the museums and the artists. His directness and frankness have at times ticked off the most powerful institutions, but he has been undeterred from speaking frankly and with passion in his reviews.

Edward is regarded -- justly, we believe -- as someone who not only loves art but has the ability to communicate his understanding and dedication to an audience.

The gallerist told me that he felt he couldn't deny Goldman the payment for fear of angering the critic. He also told me that he didn't complain to KCRW because he was worried that Goldman would not review shows at his gallery in the future.

Continued.

(Disclosure: I have been a guest on KCRW programs.)

Related: The Stranger's Jen Graves on a recent critical conflict in Seattle.

Posted April 4, 2007 10:42 AM

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