“Los Angeles Center for Digital Art” Scam

If there is one thing that really burns me up, it’s fraud on the Internet. This fraud by Rex Bruce and his so-called “Los Angeles Center for Digital Art” is especially heinous, as it preys upon struggling artists who seek only to expose their artwork to the world.

Today I read an announcement of an “Open Show” of digital artworks at LACDA. An Open Show is an exhibition with no restrictions, anyone can exhibit their work if they pay the entrance fee. But this announcement (I refuse to post the link) is a money-making scam by Rex Bruce.

There are real Open Exhibitions, and the fraudlent LACDA gallery even had the nerve to compare itself to the famous LA Open Call:

Every year for 50 years the L.A. Municipal Gallery has held its “Open Call” exhibit where any artist can show up with their art and an entry fee (to benefit gallery programs) and the piece is shown. The Los Angeles Center For Digital Art decided to launch an international experiment of the same nature where the artists upload images that are printed and hung by the gallery.

Okay.. this LACDA show is “of the same nature” as the LA Open Show, but it is not the same. The LA Open is a benefit show for the Barnsdall Art Park, for a modest $20 you can submit a sculpture, photo, or painting up to 5 by 5 feet, and the first 1000 entries are guaranteed to be shown. A jury of local artists picks the 10 best works in the show, and awards them a $100 cash prize. Leftover proceeds from the entry fees are used to support public arts programs, for example, children’s classes at the Junior Arts Center.

But the LACDA scam is quite different. For a rather expensive $31.25, you can submit one jpeg image, which will be printed on letter-size paper and hung in the foyer of Rex Bruce’s loft for 3 weeks. The “gallery” is a single room in the decrepit center of Downtown LA’s Skid Row, even the Police are afraid to walk in that neighborhood. There are no prizes or awards given to exhibitors, and Rex Bruce will keep your work after the show.

There are pictures of last year’s show up on the LACDA website, I have joined them in a pseudo-panorama to show as much of the exhibition as possible, without any duplication or overlap. The original photographs were copyrighted by LACDA, but I am presenting this derivative composite image under the Fair Use laws, for purposes of journalistic documentation in the public interest.


lacda_pano.jpg



I counted at least 250 images in this photo, and there are obviously more that extend beyond the edges of the picture. At $31.25 for each entry, that is a minimum of $7,800. The “gallery” is a single room, the image shows only one wall and a freestanding wall on the left that might have images on the other side, so it is possible this exhibit has 500 images, maybe more. That could be over $15,000 of profit! And Rex Bruce keeps all the money.

I decided to investigate Rex Bruce a little more, and unfortunately, this isn’t the worst of the scam. Rex Bruce operates two of these shows each year, one is a “juried show” where a panel selects the works suitable for exhibition. But you must still pay a $31.25 entry fee, even if your work is rejected. One prize is awarded at the juried show, inkjet prints listed as a $1500-2000 value, but that is retail price, the cost to produce the prints is less than $100. There are no obvious clues to how many works were submitted to the last juried show, but it is unlikely to be as high as the Open Show. Still, it is obvious that Rex Bruce is raising thousands of dollars every year by exploiting artists with entrance fees to his tiny one-room “gallery” near Skid Row. Rex Bruce is paying his rent by scamming hundreds of artists, one $31.25 fee at a time.

Oh but it gets even worse. Rex Bruce insists on a 50% gallery commission from any works sold from his show. This is a fairly standard cut for professional art galleries, but those galleries don’t just stick your tiny picture in a group show with hundreds of other artists. A professional gallery commits to actively promoting their selected artists, and they earn their 50% commission. Rex Bruce says that after the Open Show, he will put all the prints in a book that people can view at his gallery. That sort of passive promotion isn’t worth a 50% commission.

I would not get so enraged at this sort of scam if Rex Bruce didn’t go to so much trouble to represent himself as a prestigious art association. But if you do some research, he is an obvious fraud. The situation became clear when I saw who was the first artist to exhibit work in Rex Bruce’s gallery: Rex Bruce. This is known in the art world as a “vanity show,” where artists pay to exhibit their own work. Rex Bruce created his gallery to promote himself. And he continues to produce vanity shows, but now he’s profiting from other artists who pay to show their works. He exploits artists for his own profit, and he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

23 thoughts on ““Los Angeles Center for Digital Art” Scam”

  1. you must know, dear, that this isn’t the most egregious scam out there. what is infinitely worse but the same kind of thing happens to smart kids from junior high on. They get all kinds of solicitations, to be included in the “best young poets” or “smartest kids in America” kinds of stuff. For only a nominal fee of 25 bucks your baby gets her name in an actual book, with twenty thousand other sucker (parents) and it is totally nothing–just a scam. It of course doesn’t stop at that. All through high school your kid will get nice brochures and invitations to wonderful summer programs that will be enlightening and educational and only cost a few thousand dollars.
    Save your money folks. It’s all scams and glams. Your kid goes on a trip but it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, no matter how many alumni endorsements they mail to you. They’re selling you a trip, but it’s stil crap.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned that. I actually wrote a little bit about that particular “smartest kids in America” book scam but I edited it out of this article as I thought I was getting a little off target.
    There are other scams going around the net that are more closely related to the subject of my article, exploitation of artists. There are several phony “Literary Agencies” that exploit writers with fraudulent promises and exorbitant fees. But some of those con men have been prosecuted, fined and sentenced to jail. So watch your step, Rex Bruce, and beware of the State Attorney General.

  3. Yeah, it’s a scam, but when you compare it to the majority of other juried exhibitions out there, it’s only different by degree.
    Seems like only a handful of juried shows (and fewer of the open call, jury-free ones) has anything to offer an artist besides a lighter wallet.
    ALL juried and open exhibitions merit some serious investigation before you send them anything, especially money.

  4. We’ve recently posted a link to LACDA’s exhibition in our e-newsletter, and have heard opinions along these lines.
    Tim Anderson has responded on our blog:
    LACDA seems to have been up-front about the facts. The only problem with LACDA’s open and juried exhibitions is the short lifespan for a relatively high cost for each entry. However, one should always consider these numbers on a case-by-case basis. Consideration is a major part of entering these kinds of exhibtions, especially where money is involved.
    Tim Anderson will continue this commentary tomorrow at The CameraArts Blog.

  5. Thanks for the post. Unfortunately, I found out too late. I’m so sick of the emerging lifestyle. I’m going back to painting instead of wasting time searching for hours to get ripped off and not move forward in any way. I wonder how many other call to artists competitions are ripoffs. At least I’m happy when I’m working. Maybe I’ll reach my audience in a few hundred years…

  6. I don’t understand the problem…isn’t this how all open juried shows work…you pay a fee,
    you get selected or not…if your piece sells, the gallery gets 50%…this is standard practice right?…it’s about paying a little money to get your work out there…even if it is skid row.

  7. I also find it somewhat appalling that Rex Bruce makes a habit of curating his own work into the shows on a regular basis. So submitting artists are also paying the rent for him to show his own stuff!

  8. THANKS FOR THE EXPOSE,AS I HAD BEEN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF THIS ‘REX’ DUDE WAS FOR REAL. I SMELLED A SCAM,BUT NEVER GOT IT CONFIRMED(I NEVER PARTICIPATED IN ANY SHOWS)UNTIL I GOOGLED THE ADDY AND FIRST PAGE-YOUR SCAM WARNING APPEARED,SO YOU SAVED ME A LOT OF TIME MONEY THAT I CAN INVEST IN ART SUPPLIES. CHEERZ FROM DAWK

  9. Yeah, I sent in my $31.25. Never got selected. Just called him and he does not copyright other’s work, or work that is entered in the competition. After looking at this years winner’s it is clear that none of the judges know what the F they are doing. The winner’s work was pretty ugly and uninteresting compared to many of the works I saw before they entered. Mr Bruce’s work consists of blurred out images with no point or reason. Next year: I am going to submit blurry images with squiggly lines running through it as that seems to be what is considered art here in LA. Maybe I should go back to SF or NY where art looks like art, not some grade school kids homework from art class. hey, even some of those kids can do better work.

  10. Thanks for the post. I actually found this thru a Google search attempting to find galleries in the LA area. I have submitted my work twice to LACDA in hopes that it would be picked, of course, both times they weren’t. When I finally saw the stuff that did get picked, I was completely un-impressed. I also have seen Rex Bruce talk up his own work which I find to be mediocre at best.
    LACDA will be receiving no more of my money or time spent submitting.

  11. Thank you VERY MUCH for the information. I had just Googled LACDA to find out exactly what type of Gallery they have and what type of shows they’ve had in the past; this kind of information can be helpful. But YOUR information was even more helpful, and I’m going to save my money & time, and give up any hopes of gaining financial success through LACDA!

  12. The Snap to Grid event is a good way to see what others are doing and an opportunity to find and hook up with other digital artists who provide their email addresses. I took home a few ideas. It was worth $30 bucks to me.
    [That’s what the Internet is for. –Charles]

  13. I entered many times and was rejected. Then Howard Fox and Peter Frank curated a show (try googling “Peter Frank on Rex Bruce” and I got in.
    If Rex were such a rip off artist, why would serious museum curators invest in time both with his gallery and his art? I think he’s as legit as it gets, and he doesn’t hide the fact that proceeds from Snap to Grid go to supporting the gallery.
    Personally I wouldn’t do the “vanity” thing of entering a show where everyone gets in – what legitimate use is that to an artist who wants to be taken seriously?
    [The only person who takes Rex Bruce seriously is Rex Bruce. –Charles]

  14. Academia neglects to inform young art students that art is a business. I long ago gave up the notion of being idealistic about the work I do, but then, I’ve been doing this for 35 years. We must spend some money to make money. When I submitted my work to LACDA I was fully aware that the proceeds and commissions would benefit Rex Bruce and… perhaps… go to improvements for the venue as claimed in the invitation. The money I have spent worries me far less than the standard of work that the venue is displaying. After returning from the June 12, 2008 “New & Improved” exhibition, I absolutely agree that the quality of work was not of the highest standard (with one or two exceptions). My works were not printed well, either, much too light, which chaps my ass no end. I won’t submit any more work to Rex Bruce, but the experience served its purpose for me.
    [If the purpose was to learn that you don’t want to work with Rex Bruce, even a nickel seems too expensive. I have no problem with art as a business, I was in the business long before he was. My problem is that he makes his Open exhibitions seem like a benefit to emerging artists, when the only person that benefits is Rex Bruce. There is a huge difference between making money promoting artists and making money exploiting artists. –Charles]

  15. Charles:
    NOT FOR POSTING:
    I notice that you did not post my balanced critique of your critique of LACDA and Rex Bruce. Since your original post was erroneous then and more so now, I can only suggest that you should look forward to a libel suit from Bruce. I will be offering to support him in it. Your opinions certainly are protected by our sacred First Amendment, but outright factual errors as part of an attack fortunately are not.
    Franklynn Peterson
    [Your comments were entirely unbalanced, or I would have posted them. Unsolicited comments to this blog are posted or not according to my own whims. This blog is my personal property to use as I see fit, you have no First Amendment rights here. If you don’t like that, get your own blog.
    FYI, I’ve been awaiting a lawsuit ever since Rex Bruce threatened me over a year ago. No lawsuit has been filed. –Charles]

  16. Wow do I feel like an idiot. Do you know how many times I “entered” this competition? Sheeesh! I only went looking for a scam alert because the newly chosen artists could have been picked out of a hat, they were so bad. It made me glad I wasn’t in there. This wouldn’t be so bad if the guy had great taste… at least it would be entertaining Good grief!
    Oh yeah, and if I ever come into your house and you slander me… I’ll sue! …What a moron.
    Cool blog,
    J.

  17. After years of recieving the relentless pleadings from Rex Bruce’s lacda I finally decided to googlle him and gound yur article. I couldn’t agree more. Everythiong about this reeked of exploitation of the crasses level. There was and is a very credible tradition of juried competition in the magazine publication industry and a few promonent institutions (ICP, Santa Fe, Etc.) but of recent years small galleries strugglingto survive financially have lached on to this as a way to raise money. The scam is really not overt, but subtly threaded into the implication that somehow winning one of these things is goingto help ones career. Trust me – it won’t. Outside of a few major competions of the likes of Canon, Nikon, Aperture, ICP, PDN and a few international compettions, none of these are goingto accomplish anything for the artist other than to waste his money. the tip of to me, other than the hovel he calls a gallery and the sudden internet emergence into an overnight esteemed instituion, was the award for winning – a digital print of your own work!! Regrdless of his ridiculous claims of value, I can produce a 4′ x 6′ print on my Epson 9800 for about $3-$4 tops. In my opinion, the entire operation exits for one purpose, to generate cash from entries into his never ending competitions.

  18. [I could not get your other comment to post separately, so I’ll put it here: –Charles]
    I had my suspicions about this guy.. he must be making a lot of money at $30 a pop from perhaps over 1000 entrants..
    [And your other comment follows:]
    I have tried searching on google to see if there are any other articles damning this venue but can only find one…yours.
    [You didn’t look very hard. –Charles]

  19. Heads up on Infusion gallery Art Scam!
    These people have fled to Hawaii after being caught up in the “Vanity Gallery” art scam….Artists “pay” to have their work shown with little or no promotion….the profits come from the artist paying the gallery, not through art sales…..beware of these people…they may change location or gallery names, but are still a bunch of dirty low-lifes (have you seen their dirty hippy pictures?) ripping off poor artist….
    spread the word!

  20. Thank you very much for the information… He also says that this competition is open to all geographical locations… insisting that is international… Some artists from around the world probably will pay the fee… He’s using the name of the California Museum of Photography…. It’s a big fraud…..
    Spread the word !!!!

  21. Hey….
    I earned second place in lacdas “international competition” and wasn’t given a print as promised. That, my friends, is a scam for sure. Rex Bruce and that place can suck my balls, what a joke. My friends from la went to the place during open hours and no one was there, on top of the neighborhood being a decrepit dump. Please, from a fellow artist, don’t support these people, please.

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