ArtStruck Gallery, CYNTHIA HOUPPERT, “Art Agent”
A User sent this in – – CYNTHIA HOUPPERT, “Art Agent” and former owner of ArtStruck Gallery in Blue Ridge, Georgia. This is still so incredibly painful to discuss —I’m going to provide the facts, but it’s is a lengthy story ; worth your while to read it! I was a novice when I signed with this “art agent” and her gallery. I had NO clue what real agents do for artists; in retrospect I think she got that about me right away & capitalized on it.
Long story short, after I’d paid/insured $10K worth of my portfolio to be shipped to her gallery, months later they weren’t answering the phone OR emails. I’m 2000 mi from there so I was panic-stricken. Not knowing what else to do, I called a local art association who gave me the low-down: they’d skipped town, owing quite a few people money including the landlord; the lady I spoke with said she was pretty sure there was a warrant for their arrest, several bad checks, I think. I should mention Cynthia has a life partner whose name changes often. Cynthia and her partner were men previously and transitioning to women has helped them hide from law enforcement.
Cynthia wrote a book on getting an art agent, which was one of the reasons I signed with her; I felt that added to her credibility and I trusted that. As the days went by I spoke with many people in Blue Ridge, Georgia, desperately trying to track down my work. Although she’d sold a few pieces, she still had the majority of my portfolio.
A kind person who knew the landlord said nothing was left in the gallery space they’d rented, so I knew she had to have my work with her. It wasn’t just me, there were 11 other Artists who were robbed. When I contacted each of them, they were afraid/ashamed to go public, felt it would hurt their marketability and were embarrassed they’d been scammed. One of my fellow exhibitors was a very well-know international sculptor; interestingly enough he tracked her down and got his work back, but I think he was successful only because he threatened to go public with the story. He told me they’d re-located to Miami and gave me a phone number.
I called until my fingers were numb; no answer. I did a paid internet search ($40) to get their email. I wrote demanding my work be returned to me at ONCE. I got back a response, loaded with snark and smartassery, as though I was the one who’d stolen $10K worth of Artwork. I threatened her with police and she said I’d signed a contract and there was nothing I could do. The contract I signed was STRICTLY for exhibit in Blue Ridge, Georgia, NOT transporting my work ANYWHERE and had actually expired. I called the FBI Art Theft Unit and was told the value of my work was “arbitrary” and that they could not pursue these crooks; also was a problem that I’d “given” my work to them, wasn’t like they’d broken into a gallery or museum and stolen it. They were kind and sympathetic but couldn’t help me. Meanwhile, I began getting threatening emails from Cynthia, saying she would “alert the Gay/LGBTQ community that I was Gay-basher” .
I was like, good luck with THAT, honey, at least a third of my buyers are Gay. So WHAT ?!?! The threats and derogatory comments continued until I finally gave up and blocked her. You could float a kayak in the tears I shed over this. This was 10 years ago; I still have not been able to recover ANY of my work and am pretty sure she sold it all & kept the money. Insofar as I know, that’s what she did to ALL of us except the sculptor. I think his international status was what helped him recover his pieces; he had an established value of his work, well-documented. My work has grown exponentially in value since that time and now hangs in seven countries and two museums. I would give anything to get back my originals.
The work Cynthia stole from me were all early originals and I have very few photos of that work, stupidly trusted her to take more photos for me and of course that never happened. This person and her partner are straight-up thieves and manipulators; they come off as highly knowledgeable about the Art World, but they are crooks and cons. I strongly urge you NEVER to do business with them; they have a long history of cheating artists and actually robbing them AND very sadly, have gotten away with it for quite a long time, ten years plus. Had I owned a ten thousand dollar CAR, the cops would’ve been all over it. But, because it was Artwork, the value only counts if you’re selling like hotcakes and an established “name”. Keep that in mind when you do business with people who have little to no Art cred.
I learned the hard way–and my work is gone forever. I want to add that I am totally disabled and Cynthia knew that; my art materials, framing, and shipping & insurance were paid for by family members & friends who wanted to help me pull up out of a long, deep depression after an accident that’d permanently disabled me. I lost everything I had and was clawing my way back into Life. Cynthia knew ALL of this and still robbed me blind of my work. THAT is a direct illustration of how craven she and her partner are.
I’m so very sorry. This is a chilling story. It’s so hard to trust people. My love to you, I will be thinking of this as I consider a email and opportunity that was handed to me out of the blue. So happy your work is going places! Congratulations!
She sent me a contract to exhibit my work but when it came time to return it she disappeared. I called the local police department since I didn’t want to get involved with a law suit and they were very instrumental in getting my work back to me in NY. Scam.