‘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.

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… Continue Reading Merchandising Rights Time Bomb

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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… Continue Reading Consignment: Trust

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Creative Collaborators: Authors or Assistants?

In this post-digital age increasing numbers of artists collaborate to create non-traditional works of time-based or mixed media, for which a significant global market has developed and is advancing. F… Continue Reading Creative Collaborators: Authors or Assistants?

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Commissioning Contemporary Art

There is a real shortage of published material that authoritatively and comprehensively covers the complex and extensive challenges of commissioning new artworks: conceptual, cultural, ethical, manage… Continue Reading Commissioning Contemporary Art

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Authentication Revisited

Authenticity certificates were explored in last month’s column (Art Monthly 355). This month we revisit the subject in the light of further authentication disputes and debates. Art Fairs have vastly i… Continue Reading Authentication Revisited

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Authenticity Certificates

Public and private collectors and art market professionals have started to request certificates of authenticity to accompany the transfer of ownership of works. What are they, how are they used, who p… Continue Reading Authenticity Certificates

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Tracing Work

Listen to me baby Wherever you may be I’m beggin’ over the radio Please come back to me – I’ve got a mind To move on down the line. * Many artists and galleries find great difficulty in tracing work w… Continue Reading Tracing Work

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Paper Promises, part 2

Part I last month began to deal with exhibition and selling work, one-off and generally, responding to five questions posed by a newly-established gallery administrator. Part II concludes by giving ch… Continue Reading Paper Promises, part 2

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Gallery Agreements

Artists – grateful for the offer of a ‘gallery deal’ – are understandably reluctant to request the use of a written agreement during negotiations, since this might jeopardise their chances. In this co… Continue Reading Gallery Agreements

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Mum’s the Word

Artworks are sometimes conceived which deliberately incorporate the law as an intrinsic element in the piece or its exposition: Christo’s Running Fence could only be realised by the artist successfull… Continue Reading Mum’s the Word

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