‘Put everything into writing’ is the clear and consistent message in this collection of articles from 1977 to date.

Early pieces give examples of contractual terms and conditions that were being asked for in the 1970s and 1980s, but later pieces revisit the subject with a different approach, offering basic structures and checklists for negotiating and constructing terms and conditions appropriate to individual circumstances.

Common contractual relationships are dealt with, including bills of sale; gallery and agency deals; exhibition agreements and public and private commissions.  Common contractual problems are also dealt with, including: damage to work; tracing lost work;disclaimers from liability; severance of contractual relationships; insurance and valuation; loans and gifts and fakes.

There are numerous case studies charting contractual successes and failures, including:

Alan Smith’s Long Roof project (1981)
Stephen Conroy’s gallery deal litigation (1988)
Robyn Denny’s dispute over damage to one of his pictures on loan (1994)
Lilianne Lijn’s Dragon’s Dance commission (1995)
Anna-Livia Lowendahl-Atomic’s A selection of interesting secrets from various stages in my life – the law of contract and confidentiality (2001).

The contractual situations and issues over the three decades covered by these pieces continue to arise today.  And, although much progress has been made during that period, it is still clear that many artists still feel awkward or inhibited about introducing formal written contracts into the commercial dimension of their practices.  Evidence demonstrates abundantly clearly that, because the ‘unwritten contract’ will always come into play in circumstances where things go wrong, there is no cogent argument for written contracts not being used in a confident manner for all commercial dealings.

For useful introductory videos about using contracts, see the Contracts Store YouTube channel.

Continuing Silence

Many aspects of the art business world attract criticism or attack for being slippery and opaque, none more so than in the realm of sales transactions where privacy and discretion are paramount. First …

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Dealing Differently

In 1976 this column looked at the case of a London-based artist who sent work to a New York gallery for exhibition and sale in the US: the works were sold and the gallery sent the artist a cheque whic …

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Sculpture Competitions

Some interesting and important issues arise around the enduringly popular artists’ competition format. Many sculpture ‘competitions’ contain this word in their title, but some are promoted as ‘prizes’ …

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Public Art and the Law

Architects’ collaboration with artists and craftworkers has been the subject of serious debate and some activity over the past five years. The ‘art and architecture’ movement in the U.K. started with …

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Doing a Deal: Part 1

Selling work is the primary source of income for most commercially successful artists, and is the strongest aspiration of most of those for whom a market place is not established. It is no surprise th …

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Ballad of a Widening Wedge

Just because an agreement is in writing, freely signed by the parties, does not necessarily mean its words alone will bind them at law, in whole, in part, or at all. THE FIRST CASE Conservation Manage …

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Banking on Trust

‘Men keep their agreements when it is an advantage to both parties not to break them’. This ancient saying by Solon, one of the Seven Sages of Greece, still resonates today in the arena of deal making …

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Permission to Sell

Contemporary art sales are attracting increasing media interest beyond the usual art industry suspects, particularly from financial journals and commentators. There is a significant boom in both the n …

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Merchandising Rights Time Bomb

When an artwork is mass-produced in three dimensions by or with the artist’s permission, UK law substantially reduces the artist’s copyright protection in the future. This rule is a time-bomb: it oper …

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Consignment: Trust

The term commonly used to describe the contractual relationship between artists supplying their works to galleries for exhibition and possible sale is ‘consignment’. In business and legal terms, consi …

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