Dan Baldwin's show, Fragile, opened to much fanfare and celebrity in London the other night. It marked the first time the artist had exhibited under the auspices of his new management team headed by Pat Magnarella. Magnarella is a relative newcomer to the art scene. He is best known as the manager of Green Day, one of the world's biggest selling rock bands. Magnarella is adapting his business methodology honed over decades in the rock business to the world of visual art. "I don't want the art world knowing about my artists, I want the whole world," he says. He felt that visual artists could benefit from working with a manager rather than a gallery because it gives greater scope for negotiation and more freedom from the artist.
"Artists need to feel secure," Baldwin tells me. "The problem I had was trying to get the right London gallery, New York gallery, LA gallery and I was starting to feel insecure about the direction I was heading in. Now I'm thrilled to be with a team because I feel I can just focus on my work and let them take care of that side of it."
Magnarella, on the left with Dan Baldwin above, relies on his business partner Roger Klein, a flamboyant former A and R man in the music industry, to find the artists they manage. Klein's first recruit was the New York-based urban artist Logan Hicks. They now have six more in their stable including Charming Baker and Richie Culver. Klein stresses the importance of loving both the art and the artist. He sees the role of manager as being a holistic one, looking after his or her long-term interests.
"The difference between a gallery and us is a gallery doesn't appreciate being called at 3am by someone saying I wanna kill myself. An artist needs to be looked after and may need to be advised as to whether he or she should exhibit at this or that gallery, should I do 20 shows a year or two shows a year."
Klein (pictured below) insists that he and Magnarella are not trying to put galleries out of business but to complement what's already there. The artists he has signed up have already made a name for themselves. It's creating a reputation, though, that presents galleries with the most difficulties. Dan Baldwin believes that, by their very nature, galleries often can't always do enough.
"I think galleries are afraid to take risks because of their overheads," he insists.
Ceri Hand runs a commercial gallery in London and looks after 14 artists. She also lists the essential qualities for taking them on as loving their work and liking them as people. She also must see that they have the potential to improve, that there is a market for them and that she can develop their talent. However, she believes galleries like hers do take risks.
"If an artist doesn't sell you can run with them for a couple of years because other artists in your stable will subsidise them. We are driven by art and the belief that art makes a difference to the world. It's an impossible balance."
The latest government survey shows that more people than ever are visiting museums and art galleries. However, a closer look at the figures shows that this is not the case with younger people. Dan Baldwin believes the experience of the rock business can help redress this. "I've crossed over into fashion, I've done album covers and book covers and I see the correlation of the art world being close to the music industry."
Kanye West and Jay-Z are two musicians that have featured artists in videos. "I want to put Charming Baker on the cover of Rolling Stone," Magnarella assures me. One of the interesting features of his foray into the art world has been introducing art to Green Day's fans. He persuaded the American telecom company that sponsored Green Day's 2010 tour to install a virtual gallery at every arena around the world in which they were playing. Inside art works by Logan Hicks and others were exhibited based on Green Day lyrics. They proved very popular especially as visitors were given free books and prints. The culmination came when the original paintings were shown at the Stolen Space Gallery in the east end of London to which thousands of fans turned out.
"We don't want to make these people feel rejected," says Klein. "We don't want to give the impression that just because you can't afford to buy, we don't want you around."
As yet, this new management style seems like a one-off. Yet it may present another possible future challenge to the gallery system that is having to adapt quickly to the changes brought about by the digital revolution.
Dan Baldwin's Fragile exhibition runs at Gallery 8, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BN until 4 October. The pictures in this article are courtesy of Nick Cunard.