Matthew Lebowitz art dealer / art representation scam and ripoff
Here is my experience with an art dealer, Matthew Lebowitz, CEO of aqpublishing.com, the new company supposedly dedicated to helping artists get representation and income.
First, around the beginning of June in 2015 I received a phone call from a friend of Matthew Lebowitz the art dealer. She said they loved my art and she said that Matthew said something about me like “they could make a million dollars with this guy”. She warned me that he is like that guy Simon, from the television show American idol, and can be blunt. I was nervous about that. I was to paint 4 paintings to be reviewed by Matthew for representation, who was constantly saying how much he “loved” my work. Matthew’s female friend said Matthew’s mother was an art dealer and that they had Rembrandt’s or a Rembrandt in their house.
Within a few days, I spoke with Matthew who looked at my portfolio, and he went through my favorite pieces and immediately said that they will not sell. He would say ‘that is a tough sell”, or “that won’t sell”. Then Matthew gave me a list of artists that he was familiar with who were selling well. He wanted me to “look” at them and choose one I wanted to imitate to sell. He showed me Tracy Sharp, Renzo from Southern California, John Grande, and Desjardins as well as others.
I finally talked about money. Matthew stated by phone in front of his female friend that my cut of the profit would be 80% and his would be 20% of $1200. He said the paintings would probably sell, my paintings, for around $3, 000. So I was hoping to make $960 per painting. They said that a successful artist can put out 10 paintings per month. Does that sound like a factory to you? 1 very large and pretty realistic painting every 3 days??? I was hoping to make a lot of money, it would change my life.
I took the heads idea and some texture and colors from Desjardins. I liked Tracy Sharp’s work the most, she painted like an abstract Rembrandt, Matthew said he guessed that was who I would choose, he said she sold well, and he told me to make some sample paintings for his review in that style or that technique but my style with those colors and textures. So that is what I did, I copied her technique. I bought $250 worth of art supplies, figured out Tracy’s technique for texture, had to dissect her textures and colors and experiment for hours and days, finally coming to a technique I could use that would create images for Matthew to sell more easily. My mother paid me $225, $100 for supplies and $125 for a camera to take photos of the paintings. Matthew said in an email a day before he dumped me, that he would take “shots” of the paintings as well when they got to him.
On June 18th, Matthew sent me an email from his AQpublishing.com email address.
“ Send me a copy of your signature please. Also date the back of the canvas, month and year only. “.
I was very excited. So I wrote down my signature, scanned it, and sent it to him, a complete stranger, so I could get gallery representation, or in hopes to. So this guy now has a digital copy of my personal signature that I sent to him via email.
I painted 4 paintings. 3 were 24x36, and one was 18x24”. The specific goal here was for me to paint paintings that Matthew was likely to be able to sell based on the fact that Tracy Sharp’s images sell well, not based on my ideas, content, style or inspiration, but by specifically imitating another artist’s imagery that sells, for the purpose of turning a quick profit at a gallery in Aspen Colorado Matthew was opening for the summer. . He told me eyes do not sell, he showed me other artists to look at. He joked that I could paint eyes but to “Put a cloth around them like Renzo does”, and laughed. He told me that my bright yellow was a “tough sell”, so on the “Sun Goddess” painting I did that imitated Tracy Sharp’s high key paintings, I had to scumble transparent white all over the yellow until he said that “that is good”. So he told me that subdued color sells. Grays, warm colors, reds.
Matthew said that I paint torsos well, and that I should paint a torso. So that is what I did. I copied Tracy Sharp’s dark low key painting style, and painted a torso in my Christ Crucifixion rough technique. He said the red around the figure was too bright. So I had to glaze black over it until he emailed me back and said “looks great”. Matthew never wrote anything down, he always communicated by phone. Then Matthew said to make a diptych, another painting to go with this male torso. He said he wanted a female torso, to be the exact opposite of the male one, to be light, colorful and airy. So that is what I did. I always showed him my source images before painting. Later he hinted at the fact that all I do is copy a photo of a torso, but I will get to that later.
I painted the female torso high key, from a photo reference. I made texture around her, light pastel green and reddish, even after Matthew said “No greens”. So I finished it and he wrote something like “looks great”. Then the last one I painted was two hands in Da Vinci’s style, high key, using tan color, light blue, and pink. He said he really loved that one, in fact he emailed me and said “I love it!”. Then Matthew’s female friend called me and said that he kept saying how much he loved it. I then sent them photos of all 4 paintings and they said they loved it, and we were to get ready to ship them using Matthews shipping account number.
Remember, during all of my many hours of work, actually sweating over the large canvases, hoping, I was paid zero dollars for my time, research, expertise, or supplies.
Then came the ridiculous phone call at around 10am Eastern Time. Matthew said by phone that at the bottom of one of my emails, I stated that “I copy what I see that is all”. I said I never said I just copy what I see. Then he said “But basically you see picture of a torso, you paint a torso right?” Hinting that I have no meaning when it was his idea to paint torsos to sell in the first place. Then he said “You can’t make a living off of art painting hands and torsos.”. He said “You know, all of my other artists, they have their own thing already”, “I have to be honest with you, better now than have to tell you later. You need to get out of your comfort zone man. Look at some other old masters and paint like them, an old master with so much work that you can do it for a lifetime.”
I said “I already have meaning and a style, and that my inspirations were Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rubens. I said “Will that sell?”. He said something to the effect of “That won’t sell, ” or “that won’t do”. Then he told me he was sorry but that I should “Go research more”. Basically, he was telling me, without saying the words, “I cannot represent you sorry dude”. He would use the word dude sometimes. So in one phone call, hours and hours of work, dictated by him, the subject, the style, the color, the meaning to be fabricated later, my life time was wasted for nothing. Then he said “You know I can pay for….” Then he stopped himself and said “Well you know it is what it is”. He did not offer to pay me a dime, and he boasted that he had to sell tens of thousands of dollars of art in a few weeks or 10 days or more. He said he was dealing with millions of dollars.
So basically, I got upset obviously. Matthew Lebowitz who once supported me, mentally, never offered to pay me a dime, after leading me on, then dumping me in one second’s time. All art content dictated by him, imitating Tracy Sharp and Desjardins, to sell art. Of course he would say do them, but “in your style”. But honestly, if it has no content or meaning, and some other artist’s technique and imagery is imitated, how is that any of “my” style, when he said my own work that I like best “would not sell” or “that would be a tough sell”. I then sent an email to Matthew later that day requesting that he pay $250 for the money my Mother and I spent on art supplies. I gave him my website link, and even the button to press to pay me by paypal. This would have taken him 5 minutes. After receiving my request for compensation, which did not include a month of full time hard work and 30 years of expertise, he said “before you do anything let me talk to J** and figure this out” or something to the effect that he had to talk to his female friend, who really had no part in telling me what to paint and who to imitate. It was all Matthew Lebowitz telling me to paint this or that, or not to pant this or that. Getting my signature, telling me “Go for it!” by email, or “I love it!”. Whatever.
Even after I said I was going to publish an article about him and what he did to me, he did not pay me the $250 via paypal. He dealt in millions of dollars of paintings, and he was willing to risk my publishing this article on my youtube channel and affecting his reputation over $250. So now you see, what happened to me with a money-minded art dealer, who, according to his linkedin resume, has a 2 year community college education, and only worked as an art consultant for several years. Much of his work had nothing to do with Art.
Once, Matthew would text me images of abstract art in a gallery and said “How is your abstract?”. Then I emailed him that realistic artists, the great ones, know more about abstract art theory than abstract artists do, and abstract artists, know nothing of figurative, realistic art, usually. After my email explaining to him details about visual art theory, he wrote “ I finally get it!”. You see, I was educating in that email. He doesn’t really know anything about abstract art theory. He just knows which one is likely to sell. There is one thing on an art dealer’s mind I assure you, and it is not the meaning and beauty of Art or the mental or financial wellbeing of artists. It is this, “Will this make me, Matthew, a large profit or not, in the fastest time period or not?”. The art dealer’s subconscious if filled with “This is a piece of toilet paper, but does it have provenance and rarity?”.
Thanks for reading. If an art dealer contacts you, don’t trust them.