Josh Roth, who founded the fine arts division at United Talent Agency and combined a passion for contemporary art with the art of deal making, died over the weekend at age 40. The cause of death was heart failure.
Roth founded UTA Fine Arts in 2015 after a six-year tenure as chair of the art law department at law firm Glaser Weil. The UTA division he created was unique in the world of Hollywood talent agencies, focusing on the representation of contemporary artists and applying their talents beyond traditional museums and galleries.
At UTA, his client roster included numerous fine artists, photographers and mixed-media artists. He enlisted the collaboration of high-profile talent as diverse as the Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei and video artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen.
UTA Fine Arts launched an exhibition space in Boyle Heights two years ago, then recently moved it to a renovated warehouse near the agency’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. The new location was redesigned by Ai, who became a UTA client in 2016.
The Chinese artist is scheduled to present his first Los Angeles-area solo exhibition at the new space this fall.
“Josh was a dear man and a great colleague, and we are devastated by his loss,” UTA Chairman Jim Berkus and Chief Executive Jeremy Zimmer said in a statement Monday.
“His friendships and contributions were deeply felt. He constantly inspired his colleagues and those he represented with his impeccable taste, thoughtfulness, creativity, and absolute dedication. Most importantly, Josh was a wonderful man — devoted to his family, kind in spirit, and generous in every way,” they said. “UTA is heartbroken.”
Roth was a scion of a prominent Los Angeles family that made its fortune in oil. His grandfather Bernard Roth was the founder of South Gate-based World Oil Corp., which started as a collection of gas stations around South L.A. The company grew and diversified to include real estate, asphalt and oil recycling.
Roth’s father, Steven, is still co-CEO of World Oil. He is also one of the original founding partners of rival talent agency Creative Artists Agency, and he served as vice chairman of the board of International Creative Management.
Josh Roth’s survivors include his wife, Sonya — an attorney who was named managing director for Southern California at auction house Christie’s in 2015 — and their children, Anabel, Colette and Henry.