When a gallery or agent offers you an exhibition or representation, they may tell you verbally what they plan to do for you. It sounds wonderful and you may be ready to take the plunge. Before you jump in head first and deliver your artwork, take time to discuss the details of this relationship. Furthermore, if you expect to have a fruitful relationship with your gallery or agent you will want to have a signed agreement. This is an essential tool in doing business as a professional artist. This article offers advice about your relationships with art galleries and agents and the written agreement.
A written agreement is a contract, which according to Merrium-Webster is, “a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties”. This art business tool informs both parties of their responsibilities and objectives with precise details. It is absolutely necessary in order to establish clarity, understanding and legal protection.
Chances are, you will have a good working relationship with your dealer or agent, and once the agreement is written you may never have to refer to it. However, it will be comforting to know it exists, should any questions, changes or disagreements arise.
One of the best reasons for having a written agreement is because people may forget what they promised you in the past and conditions often change. A written agreement helps you avoid having to remember every detail you and the dealer expect from each other.
A signed agreement is not only used with dealers and agents. You will also want to have a signed agreement with corporate art consultants, curators, architects and others who are engaged in representing and selling your art.
Your objective is to have a strong working relationship based on understanding and mutual respect.
You may encounter dealers and agents who do not use contracts and may argue that one is not needed. That should raise a red flag. If they do have a contract it may be one that has been designed by an attorney to protect their interests, not yours. In either case, it is your responsibility to procure a signed agreement that protects you and your art.
Items on an Artist-Gallery Contract
Make sure the contract includes items such as:
• Is the representation exclusive by geography and/or media?
• Who determines the retail price of your work?
• When will you be notified of sales?
• How soon will you get paid after the sale?
• Do they have insurance coverage?
• Do they expect a commission on sales you make in your studio?
• Will your art be visible to visitors or hang in a back room or storage container?
• Will the artwork ever leave the gallery premises for art fairs and/or art leasing purposes?
Those are just a handful of the many crucial concerns that need to be clarified. I list them all in my upcoming e-Book “Dealing With Dealers and Agents”.
If you read anything on their contract that makes you feel uncomfortable do not ignore your feelings. If any of the details are unclear, don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify them. Discuss your concerns immediately, in a calm, professional manner. Avoid behaving in an angry or confrontational manner.
A gallery or agent seriously interested in your work will not feel intimidated by you because you ask questions; in fact, they may respect you for being professional. However, if their reaction to your questions makes them adversarial you might be wary of their intentions. It is better to learn in the beginning if you are about to enter a fair and reasonable relationship or one that is dominating and controlling.
Always take your time reviewing the contract before you sign it. If necessary, you may want to confer with an attorney.
Take the time to safeguard your rights and your artwork in the beginning of a relationship rather than risk losing your art to business failure, neglect, forgetfulness or unscrupulous behavior.
After the contract is signed and your relationship has begun to take off, resist the temptation to hibernate in your studio. It is essential to keep the lines of communication between you and your gallery frequent and open. Be willing to discuss all aspects of the relationship as it evolves. That will insure that it remains a rewarding experience for all parties.
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If you need advice on this topic or any art business matter please check out my consultation and coaching services.