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For more than a year, the Dallas Contemporary has sold prints by some of the area's most accomplished artists for basement prices on eBay, sparking a backlash from local artists and galleries.

Dallas Contemporary Director Calls eBay Print Sales ‘Stupid Mistake’

For more than a year, the Dallas Contemporary has sold prints by some of the area’s most accomplished artists for basement prices on eBay, sparking a backlash from local artists and galleries. In a letter addressed to Director Peter Doroshenko and the board of the Dallas Contemporary (included below),  nine artists and five gallery owners have asked for their donated art work back from the non-profit art institution after records of sales on eBay shows limited edition prints by museum-collected artists like Vernon Fisher and Annette Lawrence selling for as little as $25. Fisher was the subject of a 2010 solo exhibition at the Fort Worth Worth Modern, and Lawrence is in the collection of many major museums and her work is included in the Cowboys Stadium contemporary art collection.

“We were shocked and dismayed to learn that The Contemporary would have such little regard for the artists who have supported them over the years,” the letter reads “We were further disappointed to discover that editioned work donated by artists has been sold by The Contemporary for over a year on eBay and perhaps longer.”

When asked about the eBay sales, Doroshenko called it a “stupid mistake.”

“The staff went and opened up an eBay shop, not just to sell prints but to sell books,” Doroshenko said. “Most recently some of the prints were undervalued. As soon as I found out, we closed that up.”

Doroshenko said he was alerted to the eBay shop last Friday, not by the letter, but from a phone call from an artist.

“In my opinion it was a dumb move,” he said.

The prints were part of a series of projects undertaken since the late-1990s in which artists created limited edition prints for the Contemporary as a way of helping to raise money for the institution. The Contemporary has since stopped commissioning and selling the print series to raise money, but the overstock from previous years was placed on eBay.

“A lot of them had sold out but when I started there were a small group that were left,” said Doroshenko, who became the Contemporary’s director in 2010. “We were once again trying to get them out to the public. But I have a number of staff members who don’t know what it means to be an artist.”

The artists have asked that the remaining prints be returned to the artists. Doroshenko said he estimates there to be between 10 and 12 pieces left. He said he would continue to give them away to high-level members, but they would no longer sell prints.

“I don’t want to be an edition business,” he said. “It is an injustice for artist to make work and it just sits around.”

Here is the letter from the aritsts: 

Dear Peter Doroshenko and Dallas Contemporary Board,

We are writing regarding a very unfortunate situation.  As you may be aware, artwork donated over the years by artists in support of The Dallas Contemporary was recently posted for sale on eBay without the knowledge or permission of the artist/donors or the galleries that represent them.  We are grateful to the board members Sally Warren and Shelby Wagner for their quick action over the weekend to take the artist donated artwork off of eBay Saturday evening.We were shocked and dismayed to learn that The Contemporary would have such little regard for the artists who have supported them over the years.  We were further disappointed to discover that editioned work donated by artists has been sold by The Contemporary for over a year on eBay and perhaps longer.  The “seller’s history/feedback” shows sales and monthly activity, dating back to February 2012.  According to eBay, over twenty editioned works have sold in the past eleven months by Vernon Fisher, Linnea Glatt, Ted Kincaid, Annette Lawrence, Melissa Miller, Tom Orr, Ludwig Schwartz, Julie Speed, and James Surls.  A record of sales of artwork by each of these artists is accessible on the eBay website.

http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=dallascontemporarymuseum&ftab=AllFeedback&myworld=true

The artists would like an immediate explanation for The Contemporary’s decision to sell their artwork on eBay since February 2012 without their knowledge or permission.  Furthermore, most artwork was listed for a starting price of fifteen dollars and an average selling price of fifty dollars. In many cases, the market value for these works exceeds $1,000 and more.   Under no circumstances would any of the artists or galleries have supported The Contemporary if we believed that the donated artwork would be put up for sale on eBay.  This year-long practice by The Contemporary is completely unacceptable.Additionally, the artists and galleries listed below would like the immediate return of any remaining artwork, as it has become apparent that The Contemporary does not want the artwork and does not assign much value to the edition works.  Since our knowledge of prior sales of artwork is limited to the information available on eBay, we would also like a complete accounting of when and where donated artwork has been sold.Please let us know when the artwork can be retrieved by the artists and galleries that donated the work to your organization.  We are tremendously disappointed by this situation, and we appreciate an explanation when one can be provided. 

Vernon Fisher
Linnea Glatt
Ted Kincaid
Annette Lawrence
Melissa Miller
Tom Orr
Ludwig Schwarz
Julie Speed
James Surls
Talley Dunn
Beth Taylor
Barry Whistler
Nancy Whitenack
Marty Walker

Photo: Peter Doroshenko,executive director of the Dallas Contemporary (Daniel Baum for D Magazine)

  • puhleeze

    They’re PRINTS. $1,000? Puhleeze. Get over it.

  • Artist

    They are limited edition, hand-made art pieces; serigraphs, lithographs and etchings. They are assuredly not mass-produced reproductions.

  • Paul Klein

    Sounds to me like the Director, Peter Doroshenko, is just as horrified about this as the artists are. I’ve known him for over 30 years. I believe him and have faith in him.

  • Artist 2

    Let the damage control begin!

  • Neal K

    “The artists have asked that the remaining prints be returned to the artists. Doroshenko said he estimates there to be between 10 and 12 pieces left. He said he would continue to give them away to high-level members, but they would no longer sell prints.”

    So it sounds like he isn’t going to return the donated prints as the artists requested?

  • eBay?!

    “I have a number of staff members who don’t know what it means to be an artist” Way to throw your staff under the bus and shirk responsibility in one fell swoop, Doroshenko.

  • Artlover

    What a complete imbecile!

  • Mel

    You obviously have no grasp on the value of limited edition prints. Prints involve just as much, if not more, investment in materials and labor as other fine art mediums. These weren’t allposters.com-grade prints. Thanks for being disrespectful towards our medium.

  • Speechless

    The Contemporary has really gone downhill since Doroshenko took over. This confirms he isn’t fit to be the director. His apology is flippant and insincere. I’m not convinced he knows what it means to be an artist any more than the ignorant staff he is so quick to blame. The Contemporary seems more concerned with entertaining wealthy socialites than supporting the Dallas art community.

  • Artist

    Once again, the artist has been demoted in Dallas.

  • maw

    I’ve lived here 14 years, and I have memberships to DMA, Nasher and the MAC; I have never even heard of the Dallas Contemporary. Sorry for the artists…

    Also, that jacket is a “Stupid Mistake.”

  • James Campbell

    Joan Davidow was unqualified to direct any sort of Art Museum. She took advantage of artists and censored works which she felt were too provocative. Doroshenko is a significant improvement over the previous director.

  • hayhay

    Joan Davidow never did anything as bad as selling valuable art on eBay for $15.

  • hayhay

    You are right. Peter Doroshenko has thumbed his nose at the Dallas Art community and the Texas artists at large. He has turned the Contemporary into a party place with no real substance. He acts as if he is annoyed by the very community that he is supposed to serve. Some changes need to be made when a non-profit community based organization abuses the support they get. What about all the supporters who paid a decent price for the prints they got at the Contemporary. Those purchases have been degraded by the sale of the same print for $15 on eBay.

  • James Campbell

    She did kick an Artist when she worked at the Arlington Museum of Art.

  • Ricardo Paniagua

    Go see my show at RE Gallery before it closes next Friday. :)

  • Ricardo Paniagua

    Ricardo, quit talking to yourself again.

  • Ricardo Paniagua

    Okay. ttyl.

  • Artadvisor

    This thread is fascinating for what it reveals; too bad everybody loses. This kind of damage tends to linger.

  • Lou Menil

    Ive known PD for 25 years. He’s been an amazing genius from day one. Day one. Arts management is really hard, but he slays it everyday. Dallas is lucky. What a guy. His minions are to blame. Clearly.

  • Lou Menil

    I know the dealers too – for years. i always get 10% off and once i bought some used shelving from one of them for next to Nada. The best I ever had. These guys ate all top notch.

  • regardless

    His “minions” may be to blame, but regardless of your condescending view of Doroshenko’s staff, they are still HIS staff. Therefore, the likelihood of his complete lack of knowledge about their activities is minimal at best. So, either he’s lying about not paying attention to the functions that he himself should be concerning himself with daily as a part of his “arts management”, or he takes no ownership or responsibility for the institution or community that he claims to represent. No matter how much of an “amazing genius” you consider Peter Doroshenko to be, it’s a major fuck up that happened under his watch. And he should acknowledge some degree of accountability. Period.

  • Art Shirer

    This is hugely disappointing. I expect better stewardship from an Art Organization and exhibition space that all of Dallas supports and wants to see be successful and grow.

  • Lou Menil

    I just looked at those prices. Funny. What was the point of publishing that auction record here exactly? That’s another questionable decision. Right? Think about it. Serious question. Why circulate the doc?

  • whatevers

    The market value is.. what the market will pay.. so your prints have a market value of 15 to 50 dollars… sorry doooodz

  • regardless

    His “minions” may be to blame, but regardless of your condescending view of Doroshenko’s staff, they are still HIS staff. Therefore, the likelihood of his complete lack of knowledge about their activities is minimal at best. So, either he’s lying about not paying attention to the functions that he himself should be concerning himself with daily as a part of his “arts management”, or he takes no ownership or responsibility for the institution or community that he claims to represent. No matter how much of an “amazing genius” you consider Peter Doroshenko to be, it’s a major fuck up that happened under his watch, and which undermines everything that the Dallas Contemporary was originally designed to be. And he should acknowledge some degree of accountability. Period.

  • coldfront

    “Renoir bought for $7 at flea market may have been stolen from museum in 1951″
    I suppose whatevers agrees the market value of a Renoir is therefore $7.

  • Dallasgal

    The last time I checked the staff footprint at this museum is 6-8 people. How unplugged is this guy? Makes one wary of the careful eye he is keeping on grant money and donations from the public.

  • Dallasgal

    If you’re managing staff correctly and building a strategic plan for your non-profit as an executive director, you don’t have minions. The executive director is the face of an entity and should take full responsibility for both the successes and downturns of the enterprise. Someone send PD some Carnegie reading to mull over.

  • Kelly Kroener

    I can haz art for less than a the price for a VIP ticket?

  • Lou Menil

    Lol just fyi its sarcasm

  • Lou Menil

    nevermind

  • DarkStar

    More douchery from the guy who brought Shepary Fairey to town? No surprise there.

  • swindled

    Doroshenko should be ashamed of his treatment of the artists and his staff. His attitude and response of blaming others is a reflection of his character. It is obvious that he has no respect for other people’s hard work. No one sold anything on ebay without his knowledge (unless he is accusing them of stealing.) Does anyone believe that his staff started pilfering from the storage closet and listing things on ebay in their spare time? Maybe they were having garage sales on their days off. Not having knowledge of their actions would actually be worse because that would mean he has absolutely no involvement with his staff. Anyone checked Craigs List? Hope Doroshenko is packing his bags.

  • dcc follower

    i dont know what the donation terms were between the DCC and the artists, seems like a relevant fact that went unreported. generally if you give something to someone, its theirs to do with what they want. that fact that dcc chose to sell something given to them by a key constituency seems more dumb than anything.

    keep one thing in mind – ebay is a market place for items and an open bidding system should be a pretty efficient way to figure out what the pieces are “worth”. artists, galleries and collectors all have a vested interest in maintaining high prices for art – seems this is more about bruised egos and potential lost profits than art. reads more like sour grapes than bad management.