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.
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.