What To Expect In A Contract
Art Tips | Contract
Once you have found a reputable gallery that wants to represent you and your work, draw up a contract. Many artists and dealers may wrinkle their noses at the idea, proclaiming their trust in each other's verbal word, but unless your mother runs the gallery that represents you, make sure you get all agreements in writing.
Contracts are a good thing for an artist to have. They protect you in the event that misunderstandings arise pertaining to the handling of your work. If an artist does not have a written contract with a gallery, then the gallery has all the power to decide how it handles your work. A contract outlines specific guidelines and criteria to meet the needs of both the artist and the gallery or dealer. These guidelines include pricing of work and commissions received on work sold, how many pieces a gallery exhibits, how long and how often the work is shown, and in general, the responsibilities of both the artist and the gallery to each other.
Some galleries may have a formal contract that they use. Before signing it, make sure you read everything in it and ask questions if anything seems confusing or doesn't apply to you. If you have any legal questions, you can have a business lawyer (not just any lawyer) go over the contract with you before you sign it. Please see Cay Lang's book Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist for a list of several sources for Lawyers for the Arts. If you have changes you want made in the contract, suggest these to the gallery. The best tool you and the gallery have in negotiating a contract is clear communication. Talk to each other. Many galleries are willing to come to terms and make compromises with individual artists to suit their varied specific needs.
Some galleries may not have a standard contract.
You can have a contract specially drawn up to meet both your needs. If a gallery refuses to sign a contract with you, seriously consider if you want to have business dealings with them.
Remember: If you turn over work to a gallery without anything in writing and something goes wrong, you don't have much of a legal leg to stand on.
The basic break down of a general contract is as follows:
General Information: At the beginning of the agreement form, the gallery's name, address and phone number as well as the artist's name, address, and phone number will appear. Also, the date in which the contract is drawn up must be on it. An inventory list with complete, accurate titles or descriptions of the work the gallery is receiving along with the retail prices of each one must appear somewhere in the contract.
Prices: It may be mentioned that it is the artist's responsibility to price the work. If you have trouble with pricing, sometimes the gallery will help you "feel it out." (See the document "Is the Price Right?" for more information.)
Commissions: The amount of the commission or consignment percentage must be in the contract. This varies greatly from gallery to gallery (or dealer to dealer.) The gallery commission (what they receive if they sell your work) may range up to 50% of your asking price. Some galleries vary how they apply the commission to the work. Many galleries take their commission out of your original asking price. For example, if you price a work at $1000 and the gallery's commission is 50%, when the work is sold, the gallery receives $500 and you receive $500. I have dealt with a gallery that added its commission to the original price, thus increasing the selling price. For example, you have a work priced at $1000. The gallery receives a 50% commission if the piece is sold, so $500 is added on. The work sells in the gallery for $1500. You receive your original $1000 asking price and the gallery receives $500. Before pricing your work, make sure to find out how the commission is added. You want to keep your prices as consistent as possible wherever you choose to show your work. You don't want a reputation of undercutting galleries' prices; not many galleries will want to deal with you if you do this.
Exhibition Concerns: Within the contract, it will be mentioned how long the gallery will keep the work on display. Some galleries have scheduled solo exhibitions for artists, others may have work up salon-style or keep work on consignment, and some galleries may do all these practices. Galleries that take pieces on consignment are often flexible about how long they will keep work. An average amount of time may be 3 to 6 months or longer, if the gallery has received positive responses from its clientele. (Hopefully these positive responses will lead to sales.)
Some galleries have limits on how much work they can handle especially if they carry several artists. The number of pieces they will carry may be mentioned as well in the contract. Another concern is cost of delivering and removing work from the gallery. Most likely, this will be the responsibility of you the artist. (If you develop a huge presence in the art world, i.e., you become famous, and deal with a well-known reputable gallery, they may pay for the shipping.)
Galleries that conduct solo exhibitions for artists may hold receptions or leave it up to the artist to be responsible for the reception. Find out what your part is: who writes and sends press releases to local newspapers (publicity), who pays for the invitations (printing and mailing costs), the drinks/alcohol, the hors d'oeurves, etc. Get it all in writing. A gallery I deal with splits the cost of printing for the invitations and the cost of the alcohol for the reception with the artist. They do all the work - order and mail the invitations, hang the exhibition, set-up and clean up for the reception, etc. Make sure it is clear what your responsibilities are for your exhibition.
Sale of a Work: The contract should clearly state when the gallery pays the artist upon sale of a work. A standard practice is to pay the artist at the beginning of the following month. Along with a check, the artist should receive a "Bill of Sale" that states: the date the work was purchased, the title/description of the piece, the retail price, the gallery commission, the artist's commission, and the signature of the person who sold the work. Sometimes the gallery will list the name of the client who purchased the work on the bill of sale, but this practice varies from gallery to gallery.
Price Reductions: Some galleries will keep works on consignment beyond the average 6 months but under the condition that the works will be discounted in price. A gallery owner I dealt with had it clearly stated in our contract that during the 7th, 8th, and 9th months my work was in the gallery, the price would be reduced by 10% and during months 10th, 11th, and 12th, it would be reduced another 15%, thus reducing the original asking price by a total of 25%. If it still wasn't purchased after 12 months, the work would be removed. If a gallery you deal with conducts this practice, make sure it is in the contract. Another example of price reduction: It is not an uncommon practice for galleries to give special clientele or faithful customers a discount as a "thanks" for their loyalty to the gallery. Usually the discount is small, and the gallery absorbs it out of its own commission while the artist will still receive his/her regular commission. Again, make sure that this is clarified in your contract.
Referrals: Sometimes a client will see work he or she likes in the gallery, but may want to contact the artist directly to commission a particular piece or perhaps see other works in the artist's studio. If it is appropriate, the gallery will give the artist the name and number of the client (or vice versa.) If a sale is made by the artist, within the galleries immediate area/state, the gallery should receive it standard percentage (50%) – this keeps your gallery relationship professional – is the galleries incentive to work for you - and it also secures the pricing of your artwork. If you sell out of your studio priced wholesale – you are sending a strong message that your work is not worth the retail price. I know that this may be a bit tough to swallow but your job – in partnership with your gallery – is to maintain your price structure. If someone asks to purchase your work at wholesale: make sure you ask yourself if doing this is worth damaging your professional relationship. If your gallery finds out that you are selling out of your studio they have grounds to drop you.
Exclusiveness: A very important factor to consider is the exclusiveness of the gallery towards your work. The gallery may want you to exhibit only at their location and no other gallery locally. On a local level, it is not an uncommon practice for artists to choose a particular gallery to which they are loyal. Many galleries don't mind if the artists they represent show at different galleries regionally or nationally. Some may want only your solo exhibits. Others that don't deal with solo shows may only show a few of your pieces on an on-going basis. Many don't mind if you participate in group shows locally or otherwise. Gallery owners realize the importance of work exposure for artists. Make sure it is clearly written in the contract if the gallery has limitations on where you can exhibit. Often galleries don't mind and encourage artists to sell work from their studios (especially if the artist had clientele prior to representation at the gallery.) Just bear in mind that the gallery will expect the same courteousness of you as you do of them. Try to keep your prices consistent with what you sell in the gallery and don't undersell them. This benefits no one.
Sign the contract: After you have come to suitable agreements with the gallery, read the entire contract over and make sure everything is as you have agreed upon. Both the gallery and you (the artist) will sign the contract. Each of you will receive a copy. Keep this for your records.
ART GALLERY CONTRACT (SAMPLE)
Artist – Art Gallery Agreement to exhibit and sell artworks
1. Agreement. This is an agreement between _____________________________("the artist") and _____________________________("the gallery") for the representation of artwork at the gallery location: ________________________________________________/__________/_____________.
Address state zip
All rights and liabilities of either party shall be governed by this agreement.
2. Condition of artwork. It is the artist’s responsibility to deliver artwork ready for display; to include but not exclusive to, professional framing, and standard (wire for hanging etc.) or special display mounts.
3. Originality of artwork. The artist guarantees that the artwork is original, and has been created by him/her and that they are the sole owner of the artwork.
4. Delivery of artwork. It is the artist responsibility to deliver artwork to the gallery. If shipping to the gallery, is required, the artist is responsible for this cost. If return shipping, of unsold works, to the artist is required, the gallery is responsible for this cost. Insurance of shipped artworks is the responsibility of the shipper.
4. Insurance of artwork. It is the gallery’s responsibility to insure artwork while in its possession. All reasonable efforts will be made to protect artwork while in the gallery’s possession, but normal wear and tear may not be covered.
5. Contract Period. It is agreed that the gallery will exhibit, and promote the artwork for the following period of time: __________________________ to _________________________. Either party may cancel this agreement in writing at any time.
6. Financial Agreement. Both parties agree to keep the terms of the agreement confidential. It is agreed that the gallery will retain _____% of the retail price. Gallery Owner will retain its percentage out of the sale proceeds, and pay the balance to the artist within 30 days of sale. If any gallery discount is given it is with the agreement of the artist (if agreed upon, discount will be shared evenly between gallery and artist), if not agreed upon, gallery is responsible to absorb discount.
7. Title of ownership. Title of ownership of artwork(s) will pass from the artist to the client upon sale of artwork.
Signature of the artist
Signature of the gallery