Stuart Croft: on artists moving image

Stuart Croft (1970-2015), an artist-filmaker based in London, put together the following five questions and answers to consider when selling artists’ moving image.

1. How do artists sell film & video work?

To overcome the infinite reproducibility of moving image work, artists who make film and video usually Edition their work for sales. You create a limited Edition of a particular work and you sell only those Editions to collectors. The idea is that the artwork’s limited availability in the market keeps its sale value relatively high. Editioning artists’ moving image is inherited from the tradition of selling artists’ photography and print, and Edition numbers tend to be 3, 5, 7 or sometimes 10.

There are variations. Some artists do not feel comfortable with the Edition system or the dealer system, some work with artists’ film distributors to handle screenings and fees. Some artists create an unlimited edition or give their work away for free. Some make an Edition of 1 and aim to sell it for a high price. It’s an ethical, political and commercial decision.

2. What factors affect the price an artist sets for a film or video work?

  • Status of the artist – the ‘esteem’ of the artist and their place in the market
  • The medium itself – moving image often attracts prices below that of, say, painting or sculpture
  • Previous sale prices of the artist
  • The number of works in the Edition (eg. if the work is in an Edition of 10, you would set a lower price for each Edition than if the work is in an Edition of 3)
  • The number of Editions remaining (the work can be step-priced, which means that its price can go up as the Edition becomes more rare in the market)
  • The amount of money the work cost to make and the amount of time spent making the work
  • The running time of the work

3. What does the collector expect when they buy a film or video work? What formats should the artist deliver to the collector or institution?
If you’re not sure about delivery formats or the collector’s requirements, ask the collector for their advice, if you feel it’s relevant. Collectors often have advisors. Museums will often want to discuss the delivery formats of a complex moving image work.

For a standalone moving image piece, you would usually deliver a Quicktime file, probably on a hard drive; probably also a Blu-Ray or DVD copy; and possibly also an archive back-up on broadcast videotape such as HDCAM or Digital Betacam. For a work on celluloid, you would usually deliver a 16mm print.

What you keep back is also important – keep two AP’s (Artist’s Proofs) and the Master of the work. Artists and dealers can sell AP’s once the Edition is sold out, but always keep the master.

4. Who holds the copyright in an artist’s moving image work if it is sold?
If you sell Editions of a moving image artwork, the artist always retains copyright in that work. In the UK, copyright is self-asserted, so you don’t need to do anything – it’s automatic. As an artist selling Editions, you retain the distribution rights to show the work – in galleries, festivals, online, or in any other context. At the same time, collectors and institutions are also able to show Editions that they have bought. But you should ask the collector to inform you when they are doing this.

You can also sell a license to a moving image work, as well as an Edition. This might be to a broadcaster who wants to include your work in a TV programme, and you can negotiate a price to sell a license – for a certain number of years, and to certain territories (countries).

5. What is a Certificate of Authenticity?
A Certificate of Authenticity is a document that confirms the authenticity of the artwork. Crucially for moving image sales, it declares how many Editions there are in the work, as well as the number of the Edition being sold in this instance (for example ‘Edition number 1 of 3’). You should also normally include a phrase that commits you to making no more than the stated Edition of the artwork.

© Stuart Croft 2013

Artist-filmmaker Stuart Croft died unexpectedly in March 2015. He is sadly missed by family, friends, colleagues and fellow filmmakers. The Stuart Croft Foundation (registered charity no 1163676) has been established to build on Stuart’s legacy and increase public understanding and knowledge of contemporary moving image practice.

Stuart Croft was a Senior Tutor in Moving Image and leader of the Fine Art School’s Moving Image Route at Royal College of Art. Stuart’s practice in moving image asks what the possibilities are for co-opting languages of the cinematic into the contemporary gallery space. His practice uses various strategies to investigate the conditions of recurrence, deception, power and desire. Croft worked with a hybrid of analogue and digital technologies, merging high-end production techniques with the structures of artists’ film to explore the contemporary collision of the dominant and critical image.

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