UNITED TALENT AGENCY announced today that Arthur Lewis will lead the fine arts arm of the Los Angeles-based talent and entertainment firm. Lewis will serve as creative director of UTA Fine Arts and UTA Artist Space, advising visual artists represented by the agency and overseeing exhibitions, programming and partnerships through its Beverly Hills presentation and event space.
UTA Fine Arts assists artists in their pursuit of projects beyond the traditional contemporary art sector, guiding ventures in film and television, for example.
The agency worked with artist Rashid Johnson on “Native Son,” his adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel and directorial debut. With a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks, the film premiered at Sundance where it was sold to HBO.
In addition, the fine arts division helps clients in other creative disciplines navigate the art world.
A prominent collector of African American art and active member of the Los Angeles arts community, Lewis is a board member at The Hammer Museum and The Underground Museum. He is also a member of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Global Council, which is composed of museum patrons.
Lewis recently served as an executive vice president at Kohl’s, where he oversaw product design and development in the retailer’s New York design office. An expert in brand management, merchandising, and product development, he has also held executive posts at HSN, Hautelook, and Gap Inc.
“Having someone of Arthur’s stature, vision and taste join UTA will be an invaluable asset for the artists we represent,” UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said when the appointment was announced.
“There is an amazing cultural collision occurring across society and artists are on the pulse. Arthur intuitively understands this cultural cross section and recognizes how UTA can be positioned at the center of the conversation helping bring the strongest voices to light. At the same time, Arthur’s extensive experience developing brands across multiple categories of business allows him to have the commercial perspective that is critical to today’s artists.”
“There is an amazing cultural collision occurring across society and artists are on the pulse. Arthur intuitively understands this cultural cross section and recognizes how UTA can be positioned at the center of the conversation helping bring the strongest voices to light.” — Jeremy Zimmer, UTA CEO
UTA FINE ARTS is considered the first visual art division established by a major talent agency. The fine arts group was founded in 2015 by Joshua Roth (1978-2018) and the artist space was inaugurated in 2016. Originally located in Boyle Heights, in the wake of organized anti-gentrification actions making it challenging for new art entities to operate in the neighborhood, the space moved last summer to Beverly Hills, in close proximity to the agency’s headquarters.
When the artist space initially opened, the New York Times asked Roth if the agency was encroaching on the role of art dealers by staging art exhibitions. Roth indicated the artist space would not function as a traditional gallery (although the art exhibited in the space is for sale).
The newspaper cited the kinds of activities UTA planned to feature: “expect collaborations with out-of-town galleries eager to reach Los Angeles collectors, and one-off events that serve United Talent’s current roster or help to cultivate new clients.” Such programming might include exhibitions, as well as events like book readings and musical performances.
Ai Weiwei envisioned the design concept for the Beverly Hills space. UTA helped the artist develop and distribute “Human Flow,” his documentary about migration. After Ai put his stamp on the interior, “Cao / Humanity,” his first gallery exhibition in Los Angeles was presented at UTA Artist Space.
Exhibitions featuring the work of Larry Clark, The Haas Brothers, Enoc Perez, and Derrick Adams, have also been presented and Petra Cortright’s first large-scale video survey was staged in the space. “Dans Un Ciel Ensoleille” featured four African artists—Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Paa Joe, Cameron Platter and Serge Attukwei Clottey. The first solo exhibition of Cuban-born artist Marco A. Castillo is currently on view.
UTA Artist Space recently featured “Dreamweavers” (Feb. 13-April 13, 2019), a major exhibition presented in collaboration with Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean and curated by Nicola Vassell that coincided with the first edition of Frieze Los Angeles.
The group show explored “the paradox of fact and fantasy through the lens of artists who operate from a deeply imaginative, often provocative, psychological space.” A multi-generational roster of black artists, many with connections to Los Angeles, was showcased. Participants included Karon Davis, David Hammons, Arthur Jafa, Pope L, Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Noah Purifoy, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Tschabalala Self, Ming Smith, Charles White, and Kehinde Wiley.
The fine arts division has also collaborated with the estate of Dennis Hopper and was the conduit for Kurt Cobain’s never-before-seen artwork debuting at the Seattle Art Fair.
LEWIS’S APPOINTMENT at UTA is effective immediately. He said he is looking forward to opening up new opportunities for artists.
“As a Los Angeleno and a collector, I’ve witnessed firsthand how important it is for artists to have space to experiment as they embark on ambitious career paths. My vision for UTA is to act as a partner to help realize artists’ dreams, and build toward their futures,” Lewis said in a statement.
“I applaud UTA’s commitment to innovation and its community, and I look forward to carrying that legacy forward, and deepening the connection with our audience and our artists.” CT
TOP IMAGE: Arthur Lewis at United Talent Agency, Beverly Hills, Calif., June 10, 2019. | Photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages, Courtesy UTA
FIND MORE about UTA Artist Space on its website
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