I’m writing to alert you to problems that my
husband, artist Stephen James (www.stephenjames.com.au) is experiencing in relation to
being a finalist in the 2005 Cromwells Art Prize. We’ve been in contact with
some of the other artists who were also finalists and they are also displeased
with the way things have panned out.
Given that Cromwells have expanded the Prize
scope for 2006 I believe that artists should be aware that Cromwells haven’t met
their commitment from the 2005 prize. If they can’t handle this then one wonders
how they’re going to handle this expanded project.
The entry fees are high, the promises made by
Cromwells are large, the prize money is enticing but the reality has been very
The contractual commitments for the artists are
heavily weighted in Cromwells’ favour and, although NAVA (National Association for the Visual Arts) did get some
concessions for artists, the conditions are still onerous and long
The situation with the 2005 Prize is as
from the Cromwell’s site…
In 2005, Cromwell’s Art Prize Ltd will award a single $50,000 Major Prize for the judged
winning entrant, drawn from among the 40-60 finalists selected by an independent
judging panel of notable arts identities, from both the public and private sectors,
appointed by the Cromwell’s Art Prize Ltd Board.
The finalists exhibition in Sydney was held as
scheduled at Cromwells auction house ion December 2005. There was next to no
media coverage or media interest in the exhibition.
A purchaser came forward for Steve’s work at this
time (for $6000) but due to contractual arrangements Steve was prohibited from
selling the painting until at least the end of the travelling exhibition. Here
lies the major problem. The so-called travelling exhibition has been nowhere.
Not to Melbourne – not to Brisbane – not to Paris – not LA, Washington or New
York as stated was planned in the promotional blurb – and the show planned for
London was “postponed” indefinitely.
This has left Stephen James stranded with a $2000
air fare cancellation that Cromwells refuses to reimburse him for – even though
he booked it, at Cromwell’s invitation, for the sole purpose of attending the
London show and meeting with Cromwells’ London art contacts.
Stephen has the correspondence from Cromwells
giving details of the London show, asking for names to be invited to the opening
on 5th July.
Quite late in the piece Stephen was asked to
deliver another smaller painting to Cromwells as the gallery they’d booked was
of insufficient size to show the finalists’ works. Other artists Stephen has
been in contact with were also asked for smaller works to send to
Stephen asked Cromwells to advise of the
re-scheduled exhibition date as he would have only incurred a change of booking
fee rather than the 100% cancellation fee on his air ticket had he been able to
re-book another date. Cromwells have not scheduled the postponed London show so
Steve incurred the full cancellation fee which he can ill-afford.
Cromwell’s refused to consider reimbursing
Stephen and suggested in an email he go to London for a trip anyway. Cromwells
refused to provide Stephen with any contacts to approach should he have gone to
London as they suggested. Stephen has since sent Cromwells an invoice for his
out of pocket expenses and stated to them that he would go public on the matter
if they didn’t contact him about these issues by last Friday – there has been no
How can Cromwells possibly be serious about
expanding this so-called prize in 2006 when they haven’t fulfilled any of the
commitments that were supposed to happen for the 2005 prize.
Stephen and several other Cromwells finalist
artists have expressed grave concerns about how their artworks are bring treated
whilst in the custody of Cromwells and, given that they are under contract to
let Cromwell’s keep the work until it’s exhibited, are wondering when on earth
they’ll get their works back and in what state they will be in.
2005 Artists can no longer find out anything on
this or other matters from Cromwells as Cromwells are no longer returning calls
or emails, according the artists we are in contact with.
On the grapevine I’ve heard that Cromwells is
having trouble finding judges for 2006 as their reputation is starting to catch
up with them and art luminaries of any note are wanting to keep their own
reputations in tact.
So, although the cash looks enticing – and the
promises look generous – artists planning to enter in 2006 should
Stephen is happy to discuss this with you further
should you want further details (Steve on 0412 560 594 or 02 4938 3814). He is
prepared to do this in order to alert other artists to the pitfalls of this
On the website – Cromwell’s auction house + general auctions. Piermont – linked to an os dealer…
heard about the art prize through father-in-law.
advertised on the website…
grand tour of the US and the Americas…mid-2005
to enter. first round stage. Pay $95 and sign over copyright on the
image for five years (use of the image). Nothing about sale in the
contract. Agency agreement where any sales or contacts through them
meant a 10% agents’ fee… broad definitions. Broad control over the
work. On balance, a risk but if work gets shown in London Paris and New
York, “well worth the risk” (control of image even at first round)
next round. finalists’ round. judgment of physical work. around 25
picked. transported works (at artists’ expense). No extra payment.
December 2005, finalists’ works on show at Cromwell auction house in
Sydney. Announcment of the prize – John Wolfe… appeared to receive
told once closed, would go to Melbourne and elsewhere. Didn’t go
anywhere… during the prize showing period someone approached
Cromwell’s to buy the work. Cromwell’s said no because Cromwell’s won’t
release till after the touring exhibition “missed a potential sale” …
Melbourne didn’t happen. No word from Cromwell’s. Letters then to say
there have been problems with space in NY and delays in announcing the
venure there. Then nothing…Some months after that, change in art
director. Hellen Perko (took over). Came in – had something happened
Numerous letters to say that NY wouldn’t happen. Couldn’t get site. No mention of other places.
In around April, contacted to say show would go to London but at a
small gallery called the Light Gallery. contact to say opening on 4
July. Steve contacted Helen. Then later, a letter to finalists asking
for comp list. Then in May, Hellen called – problems – contacted
artists – gallery too small, “can you provide a small art work for the
show”. Yup, ok… Did that. More phone calls re details… due to
collect paintings on 12 June to transport for the show. at 6.30pm on 8
June – got email saying that the exhibition had been postponed… CEO
of Cromwell’s is ill. promise. will take place at some time in the
future. In the meantime, started organising the 2006 competition…
Hellen “I’m shocked too”…
spent a lot of money…asked for Cromwell’s to reimburse.
“we’re a philanthropic institution. we can’t reimburse your monies.” haven’t provided contacts…
sent a letter. more formal. you had a responsibility…would be fair if
you reimbursed me… “concerns with how it’s been managed…”
another artist.. they’re not returnining his or her calls. no joy in contacting them now…
20. Artists must disclose any and all existing agreements with
individuals, companies, firms or organisations which represent the
artist and provide details of the scope of that representation, i.e.
whether it is an exclusive agreement, worldwide, or exclusive to a
particular area, state, territory or country.
21. Cromwell’s Art Prize has been established with a view to assist new
and emerging artists seeking to have their work extensively promoted,
both in Australia and overseas, and looking to increase the commercial
viability of their work. They may consider representation in other
states, territories and countries, which may lead to both national and
international exhibitions of the artists’ work. Cromwell’s therefore
requires that each artist whose work/s is/are pre-selected (the
pre-selected 200) and among the finalists (40-60 Finalist works), to
irrevocably appoint Cromwell’s Art Prize Limited to represent him/her
for a period of 5 years as his/her agent in all states, territories and
countries not specifically covered by existing agreements as
acknowledged pursuant to Condition 20 above.
22. Cromwell’s Art Prize will be entitled to receive a fee and an
on-going commission of not more than 10% provided from the standard
commissions taken by galleries and agents, where their exhibitions and
sales have resulted from the representations of the Cromwell’s Art
Copyright & Licences
23. Cromwell’s Art Prize requires the artists to assign the full
copyright over the 40-60 Finalist works for a period of 5 years for the
purpose of promoting Cromwell’s Art Prize through advertising or in the
24. Should Cromwell’s Art Prize or its sponsor exercise its right to
acquire the work, the Copyright is to be irrevocably assigned to the
Art Prize or its sponsor now and forever more.
25. The artist also irrevocably provides a Licence to Cromwell’s Art
Prize to reproduce the 200 pre-selected works for its marketing,
advertising or promotion requirements for a period of 5 years.
26. The signing of the Entry Form is seen as your acceptance of the above.