22 Aug



Thanks to several informants (who didn’t know about any of the other people who simultaneously tipped me off) I’ve become aware that my dear old friends, the vanity artist farmers Debut Contemporary, have been trawling for fat new wallets. Market Project is currently on hiatus and not being updated, but you can read my original article about Debut Contemporary there, plus hundreds of comments including damning– and in a few cases, somewhat heartbreaking if not harrowing– testimony from former clients of theirs. You can also read sock puppet comments from their cronies, and see documentation of failed attempts by these cronies to secretly defame me and my colleagues for criticising them.

I’ll get to Debut Con’s hilarious “information catalogue” for artists anon, but firstly here’s what was spammed out to the artists in question. I’ve removed the rash of links that were provided, so anybody who’s tempted to visit them thinks twice before doing so. At least twice, preferably more than twice.


My name is Laura Ellis. I work for Debut Contemporary art gallery in Notting Hill* and I would like to offer you the opportunity to apply to the Debut Contemporary professional development programme as our select committee has shortlisted you. I saw your work on the Art Slant online catalogue and was very impressed.

NOTES: You mean this Art Slant, the one that indiscrimately slurps up the names, exhibition lists, biographies and work of artists without their knowledge, instruction or consent… then has the cheek to ask artists to “claim” all these things, which are already theirs? The site at which no link is provided for an artist to tell Art Slant that they should get you the hell off the site because you don’t take kindly to the spurious implication that you support their site and business by choosing to be on there? The catalogue of artists that includes critical darlings like Ryan Gander (claim your profile, Ryan!) who I daresay wouldn’t think it’s very cool that Art Slant is potentially damaging their credibility and the value of their work? The Art Slant that’s so indiscriminate in its scraping of information and profile building that firmly and definitively deceased artists like Mark Rothko are being asked to “claim their profile”? Joseph Beuys, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray: you name an artist who’s pushing up the daisies and they’ve been Art Slanted.

Or to put it as succinctly as one person who wrote to me: “God knows what the point of it is and WHO THE FUCK uses it to find artists?” Apart from Debut Contemporary, obviously.

There are twenty artists with the surname Gentry on the site, but I’m not. DEVASTATED EMOTICON/HASHTAG DEVASTATED.

* Sample of a recent tweet by Laura: “listened to @BBCR1 this morning about Ibiza! So I went in to my unpaid internship, quit and got on the next plane! lol jks im on the tube.” I’m sure Samir and Zoe were pleased to hear how much you love your unpaid internship, Laura. Is your bipolar Twitter saga of joy and angst over cocking up an Excel spreadsheet the reason they’ve recently been advertising for a new intern?

The Debut Contemporary development programme is designed and tailor made specifically for you as an emerging, talented and ambitious artist, with 6-12 months of workshops and one to one mentoring sessions. This is the natural next step for any artist trying to break into the London and international art scene whether you are London or the UK based or not. Historically it’s been notoriously difficult for talented and ambitious artists to achieve that early on in their careers. Debut Contemporary is completely unique being the only professional development platform of its kind in the UK and we have hundreds of applicants throughout the year with outstanding talent such as yours, many of whom already massively benefited and used the programme to fast-track their career development and become very successful in the process.

Firstly, English lesson: “completely unique” is redundant, since there are no degrees of uniqueness. Something either is or is not unique. I suppose one could say that Debut Contemporary is unique for the sheer brass necks of the people who run it, but that’s all.

Secondly, there are many other professional development platforms in the UK. Most of them are at low cost or no cost to the artist. Genuine artist-led groups (such as my own Market Project), or Artquest, or a-n, or any reputable public or commercial gallery with whom you build a relationship, your peers… any, some or all of these will provide you with the support and advice you need as a new artist, with no strings attached. In Scotland you can join the union for artists. I’m not going to provide an extensive email mentoring service, but within reason I welcome anybody who’d like to publicly or confidentially ask my advice about career-related or arts policy matters. People frequently do this already. Many artists I know have the same attitude as me and are happy to answer quick questions.

There are also these things called “art courses” run by “universities” at undergraduate, MA and PhD level, though I’ll agree somewhat with Debut in the sense that every year hundreds of people graduate from formal art courses still knowing absolutely bugger all about how to be an artist. On the other hand, although it’s in the nature of young people to want everything now, not “breaking in” early in your career is no big deal. You need to wait until you’re ready, and until you’re good enough to be worth the attention you think you want. For most artists it’s better if they don’t go big early on, because they just burn out or the art world tires of them and dumps them for the current year or season’s hot young thing.

Please don’t write things like “historically it’s been notoriously”. Definitely you’ve been confusingly when you do.

This programme would not only offer you the opportunity to showcase, promote and sell your work at our Notting Hill gallery space but also give you a wealth of knowledge and guidance in order to ensure that at the end of our programme you are a self-sufficient artist; able to run your own PR strategy, social media, sales, brand identity and much much more.

Please click here for more information, including a breakdown and terms and conditions of engagement, should you successfully complete all 5 stages of selection process, this being the stage 2. As a talented artist, I really believe that you could benefit hugely from this programme and so I would greatly encourage you to apply. At the moment we are looking for a limited number of artists to fill the last few spaces for this quarter.

If this is something that interests you please feel free to visit our website [blah blah blah, links] If you are successful then we would invite to a meeting with our selection committee, including our founders, and from there after a couple of more stages, you may find yourself invited onto this programme. Our artists are currently showing in museums, art fairs, and prestigious galleries all over the world and have been winning various art industry awards in the past couple of years. They include Carne Griffiths who recently had a major solo exhibition that sold out at INK-ed gallery where Peter Blake shows and Sam Shendi whose sculptural work will be part of Frieze art fair this coming October at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and who will also have a major 3-month solo exhibition at the Royal British Society of Sculptors in central London from 31 October 2013, to name a couple. Sam has also been labelled as the ‘new Anthony Gormley’ whereas Carne collaborated with Rankin and many other major influencers in the creative industry.

Notice that the email’s grammar, logic and content degenerates by the paragraph. I doubt the artist they mention is really in Frieze Art Fair, which in any case does not take place at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is in Regent’s Park, in London. As far as I know, none of DC’s artists have anything to do with Frieze, if that’s what this whole tortured paragraph-sentence is trying to imply. Nor would Frieze touch a gallery whose artists pay to be represented. The whole Frieze brand and who they allow to partake of it, like all of the big global art fairs, is tightly controlled.

Rankin is an attention whore and a hack, always has been, and if he’ll work with Samir Ceric or one of Debut’s customers then he’ll work with anyone. The one name thing alone is the hallmark of a gigantic wanker. He and his kind were satirised brilliantly in Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley. Collaborated how, anyway?

I imagine the actual Anthony Gormley might have something to say about the new one. Just getting a room that a famous artist like Peter Blake was in does not make you a good or successful artist.

Our next major London show taking place from Nov 2013 to Jan 2014 will take place at the Deutsche Bank HQ in London (the Deutsche Bank holds the world’s largest corporate art collection including 55,000 works of art and sponsors Frieze art fair both in London and New York; their main entrance includes Keith Tyson’s 30 meter long painting in 12 different panels, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture that was at Frieze art fair 2 years ago (ArcelorMittal Orbit, 2012 ) and many more art heavyweights) and our next international show will take place in Dubai in October 2013 in Dubai’s latest art district that resembles of New York’s Chelsea gallery district. In 2012, 30 Debut artists had a very successful group show in LA at the OCCCA museum. If selected, you could be a part of both shows, and a lot more.

More hijacking of other people’s reputations and work in the last paragraph: Kapoor, Frieze, Tyson, etc.

Dubai? Yeah, well done for brokering a pay-to-play exhibition in one of the world’s top repressive, morally abhorrent and corrupt states where many workers are kept in virtual slavery and you can buy anything or anyone no questions asked. Suits Debut right down to the ground. It “resembles of New York’s Chelsea gallery district” [sic], does it? No, I don’t think so. New York’s Chelsea is an ethnically and socially diverse, cosmopolitan, broadly liberal environment with a thriving gay scene, in a city that as a whole is famous for all of the aforementioned. In Dubai, men and women in homosexual relationships have been imprisoned for months because of public displays of affection, and imprisoned for ten years when they had consensual sex with each other in private. Transvestism is also a criminal offence, which in the medieval Dubai view includes transgender people. Strict Sharia dictates the death penalty for homosexuality and for heterosexual adultery. Spot the fucking difference.

OCCCA is not really a museum, it’s a community gallery that hires out space. It’s not really in LA either, it’s in Santa Ana, Orange County, CA and it’s only technically part of LA by way of having been absorbed into Greater Los Angeles Area sprawl. It’s like having a show in Romford or Brentwood is not the same as having a show in London, or having a show in Narita is not the same as having a show in Tokyo. The show in “LA” would perhaps be the one that a former DC victim (at the Market Project link, top of page) said she was glad not to be “selected” for– nothing to do with her work, it was because she balked at the cost of it– while those who did get involved allegedly regretted being “selected” thanks to it being a huge waste of their money. If the artist turns out to be “successful” (=pays), unpaid intern and Excel saboteur Laura Ellis seems to be suggesting that the artist will be able to take part in one show that is forthcoming and one that took place in LA during 2012. That is some seriously crazy Twelve Monkeys shit, but I must say well done to Debut Contemporary for cracking the secret of time travel. I want to be in the Paris Salon of 1890, and getting something on in Pompeii would look good on my CV. Before AD 79, obviously.

Or perhaps it’s just that their sentence and paragraph structure doesn’t make as much sense as it should. Personally I prefer the time travel angle.

The one link of theirs that I do want to share with you is their “information catalogue” for artists. I had some problems opening it in Firefox on a Mac, though other people had no trouble and neither did I when I used Safari.


Here are some screen grabs, and my notes on them. As one would expect by now, the whole catalogue is rife with spelling errors, bad grammar, amateurish design and false reasoning.


“This is a life changing stuff.” I’m a sure it is a, Silvia, but why a we talking like a Chico Marx/Mark E. Smith? Also Sara Raza*, who is scarily made of newspaper like one of the people from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: “… a real thirst for knowledge and power” I don’t have the film to hand, but I’m pretty sure that’s what one of the Nazis said in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Stay away from this woman. She’s probably got kaleidoscope eyes. Shudder.

* NB, updated 8th September 2013. Sara Raza has emailed me and asked me to make it clear that she no longer has anything to do with Debut Contemporary. She writes: “I made that testimonial 3 years ago, and I asked for it to be removed.  I have no professional association with Debut whatsoever.” It looks to me like the picture of her was cheekily pinched from a press cutting image on her own site.

Rise Art is another bunch of nonsense and Scott Phillips is frequently deployed as a cheerleader by Debut. As for Toni Gallagher (whose name they mispelled, unless her surname’s really “Gallgher” which seems unlikely) all I can say is that I hope her amateur production of Chicago went well. Maybe she was able to jazz-hand away the heartache of flushing nearly five grand down the toilet.


“… our Notting Hill gallery, which has been visited by some of the world’s most influential art professionals and business leaders as well as publicly known figures such as Ruby Wax, Annie Lenox [sic], Lulu Guiness [who? seriously, I had to Google. It didn’t help that they spelled her name wrong], Alan Carr, Jason Donovan, Kathy Lette, Moreen [sic] Lipman and Alan Yantob [sic] to name a few.” Were they very drunk? Did they ask to use your toilet?

Good lord, I haven’t laughed so much in ages. I was crying by the time they got to “Moreen” Lipman. These are all influential art world people, OK? I bet some of these luminaries are on Twitter, because most Z-list celebrities and mobile rent-a-gobs from the 1990s like Wax and Lette are. I might ask them about what they did at Debut Contemporary’s Notting Hill gallery, and if they consented to being used in this marketing material.

(Another update 08/09/13: Read this in the context of Ms. Raza’s email about Debut continuing to use blurbs or testimonials after they’ve been asked to desist…)


Are you an artist? NO! You’re an “experiential brand.” There’s another classy typo in para 4: “Regent’s Collage”. Arty. I went to collage to learn the art of college.


If I were you I’d take very close notice of the names mentioned here as working with Debut and remember them. I already knew she’d done it, but it’s extremely disappointing that somebody like Ceri Hand would blot her copybook by having anything to do with them. I used to have a lot of respect for her. Would she let any of Debut’s artists into her gallery or have them on her books? I strongly suspect that she wouldn’t. Some of the company she’s put herself in here on this list is dodgy, even leaving aside Debut themselves. I think we should just leave Debut aside anyway.

DC6Here’s where they go in for the kill. What they call their “license fee” (I suppose they have to call it something) costs the artist £95 per week, on a 6-12 month contract, two months notice to quit. Do the maths. Once you start with them you’re into two months of £95 a week even if you give notice on day one. Though I’d like to see them try and get this past a magistrate if it went to court.

An artist like the “fully committed” Silvia (her unfortunate picture here makes her look like she should be committed) must be the very definition of more money than sense if they pay £95 a week for a year to Debut. That’s £4940 PA, for the mathematically challenged. “In my mind…” she says. Yes, Silvia, I’m afraid in your mind is the only place where you’re “doing very well.”

Note also the totally false and scaremongering implication that spending this type of money is “necessary” or in some way an industry norm. It is not. Taking a reasonable commission on sales or representation that leads to work is totally normal, but professional artists do not pay to show their work or to be represented, end of story. And of course people who’ve been taken in keep coming back, otherwise they’d have to admit to themselves and to other people how foolish they’ve been. A similar pathological psychology can be seen in people who crawl back to the cult that brainwashed them, or make excuses for the family member who abused them.

In the background we can see a bin bag full of frozen guts that’s been sawed in half. Or possibly some art, I don’t know. A representation of poor Silvia’s mutually estranged centres of logic and ambition, maybe?


The FUH-Q: “Should you decide to terminate yourself, you will need to give us a 2-month notice.” Oh no, Mark E. Smith is back, putting extra As where they have no business. Insect posse will be crushed-ah. Anyway, what? Terminate myself? Like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Stay onboard? Like a ship? Is this ship the Titanic, the Flying Dutchman, or the Bounty? Worst cruise ever*. In any case I suggest that sensible people head for the lifeboats ASAP, and most definitely long before they start to feel like a-terminating themselves.

… a.


* Seriously… if you’ve got cash to burn, how about spending £5000 on a nice holiday? Go travelling. It’ll do you more good than a Debut Contemporary “license fee”.


  1. Birgit over the 7 seas 23/08/2013 at 2:29 AM #

    correction: Nor would Frieze touch a gallery whose artists pay to BE represented. (delete after updating) ;)

    • Alistair 23/08/2013 at 10:26 AM #

      Thanks, Birgit. I already made one post-publication attempt at clarifying this part because my own writing there was not as clear as it should have been. But then I missed out a word, Debut style. I don’t think there’s any need to pretend I always get it 100% right. ;)

      I’ve made a similar point frequently on this blog, in writing elsewhere, on discussion panels and in teaching. Mockery aside, artists who are thinking of patronising vanity schemes should know that doing so leaves you with virtually ZERO credibility in the eyes of any legitimate public or commercial gallery. It’s quite the reverse of a foot in the door of the art world; it stigmatises you as an amateur. Vanity galleries have their own little mutually supporting circuit that an artist will find it very difficult to break out of. It’s more likely that you’ll just have your so-called “mentoring” or paid-for “showcases” to no particular avail until your money runs out.

      Conversely, nonprofit artist-led groups who stage their own exhibitions, events and whatnot are probably more esteemed and watched as an incubator for new talent than they have been for a long time. Some of these efforts are crappy and amateur, too, but at least nobody ends up greatly out of pocket afterwards. On the other hand, some are as good as anything in the established galleries, and the orthodox art world knows it.

      Artists also need to know that the hype-driven, high pressure yachts and oligarchs commercial art world epitomised by Frieze doesn’t fit the ambitions, ethics or practices of every artist… or indeed the majority of them. There are many other regional, national and global “art worlds” that suit (and potentially profit) certain artists much more than the singular one that many aspirants (and therefore companies like Debut) seem to fixate on. Be the art world you want to see.

  2. Alistair 23/08/2013 at 12:11 PM #

    I think it’s linked to at the Market Project article, but you can see some examples of how Debut Contemporary deal with dissent (and dead foxes stuffed into suitcases) at this link:


    Spoiler: they deal with it by making vague threats, delaying, and by acting as if they have a “board”, legal and finance departments when it’s pretty clear that they’re a shop front with an unpaid intern sitting at the front desk.

    The Sophia named in this correspondence with Gates is or at least was at the time an employee (possibly just another unpaid intern?) of Debut. Sophia is also the daughter of the woman who commented at Market Project that I and my colleagues were over zealous jealous losers [sic], has-been, pedestrian, outdated, sour and bitter for publishing negative opinion (which we all agreed was entirely justified based on what we’d seen and heard first hand, and on what had been reported to us by other artists) and that criticism of Debut Contemporary was “tyrannical and oppressive”.

    Stop threatening poor defenseless Samir and Zoe’s bank account, you fascists.

  3. Alistair 23/08/2013 at 12:38 PM #

    Thanks for links on Twitter @ARTQUESTLONDON and @markscottwood: visual artists in England can receive completely free individual career or professional advice here http://www.artquest.org.uk/forms/contact or free legal advice here http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/send-a-legal-query

  4. Alistair 26/08/2013 at 8:07 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

  5. Alistair 28/08/2013 at 6:39 PM #

    Re: Debut’s so-called “LA” exhibition, somebody discussing this on Twitter mentioned that Santa Ana, CA is to Los Angeles as New Jersey is to New York City. Perfect.

    “Exhibition at one of New Jersey’s top galleries…” no, not quite the same thing as a show in NYC, is it?

    Though I should make it very clear that there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with having an art exhibition in New Jersey, in Romford, or anywhere else outside of the art world elite’s favoured environments. If you achieve what you want to achieve and reach the people you want to reach by showing your work in any place, then well done and good luck to you. Just don’t pretend you’re showing in one of the fetishised orthodox art world cities like London when you’re not, or pretend you’re in a reputable gallery in London, LA, New York or wherever when you just hired an empty shop for a vanity exhibition that nobody but your mum visited.



    […] live out their retirements in various sanctuaries, where some of them paint better than a number of Debut Contemporary’s clients. Their paintings will soon be auctioned on eBay to raise money for charity. The chimp paintings, I […]


    […] Even leaving aside that all these top ten or top hundred most influential/powerful/richest/whatever lists are absolute fucking bullshit and they say very little about a person’s actual merit or achievements but a great deal about them having the right kinds of friends in the right places, I would venture to suggest that if anybody wants to turn it into a contest then I’m more influential than he is, because sometimes in a week I’ll have more readers here than I would if I wrote for Frieze or any other art magazine every month for a year. And who do people come to when they think they’ve been fucked over by the likes of Debut Contemporary? Me. His desperation is palpable to anyone who isn’t wilfully blinding themselves to it. Read more about their recent shenanigans and their (dis)information catalogue here. […]

  3. “I CHOKED ON MY LOAD” | CAREER SUICIDE - 05/12/2013

    […] stories for a year after she’d told them where to go. (A correspondent tells a similar story here about her asking them to remove a spurious testimonial and an unauthorised image from their […]


    […] and “Alan Yantob” [both sic and, evidently, sick if they really endorse this place] as proudly namechecked in the DC prospectus. Maybe they’re impersonators who have to style themselves thusly in order to avoid legal […]

Leave a Reply to Alistair Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: