Whose Contract is It?
. Artist retains ownership of the copyright to the work--and thus the right to reproduce the image at will--unless that right is specifically ceded to the owner of the work. (I would not give that right away, though I might licence the use of an image for a limited edition of prints. For this you might wish to consult with an attorney, or at least discuss the terms with your dealer, who may have experience in the matter.)
. Percentage of commission on sales is usually 50/50 (non profits may take less; beware the gallery that expects more than 50%)
. Insurance the gallery is providing should be defined. Ask: How I would be reimbursed if work is stolen or damaged?
. Is standard payment 30 days after close of show?
. How would a gallery feel if an artist creates a contract, with payment schedule, marketing agreement, discount policy, shipping policy and future sales agreement. Would galleries feel it is too pushy or would they see it as professional?
. What if a gallery refuses to give me a contract and refuses to sign the one I provide?
My first response is to ask why a business such as your gallery would want to engage in selling art without some kind of conract with its artists. At the very least a signed consignment form acknowledges what the gallery has of yours--whether for insurance purposes, for sales reference, or for inventory. Personally, I'd be wary of anyone who doesn't want to acknowledge the business arrangement I have with them. And if I had work with the gallery under those circumstances, I'd be sure to have screen grabs or printouts of the artist-inventory page on the gallery website. If there's no record of the artist's work anywhere, well, that just smells funny. I might discreetly talk to the gallery's other represented artists. But, frankly, I'd be more likely to get out. Artists and dealers, please weigh in.
. Sometimes just reminding the dealer that you have a signed contract will get a check generated. Deadbeat dealers are sleazy but they're not stupid; they tend to take the path of least resistance. Speak up and ideally they'll pay up
. Contact Volunteer Lawyers for the Art in your area. You may get some free advice, but typically you'll end up with some names of art-and-artist-friendly attorneys who would represent you for a fee. Some VLA attorneys will charge you somewhat less than their normal going rate. Sometimes just having an attorney step in will get the wheels turning
. Quietly share your experience with other artists. The art world whisperstream contains a good deal of cautionary information. It's not slander if you tell your truth.
Over to you: Comments? Questions? Answers?
* The Great Handshake, 1992; relief-block print (two-color, dark over light w/rainbow inkings), 13-1/2 x 21-3/4 in. image, 17-1/2 x 23 in. paper . Signed in pencil, artist’s proof. Hand-printed by the artist on acid-free paper. The Alcorn Studio & Gallery
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