Selling art is a business and your business is your livelihood. If you are not careful you could see your reputation on the line because of a simple misunderstanding. Art contracts can help you reduce misunderstandings and protect your art business.
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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and I am in no way providing you with legal advice. This post is to provide you with the benefits of art contracts. I strongly encourage you to consult your attorney to help you create a legal contract for your art business so you can legally protect your assets.
What Are Art Contracts
An art contract or contract is the legal document between an artist or owner of an artwork and a borrowing institution or between an exhibition organizer and the host venue. They are written to specify details about the work to be undertaken and the expected outcomes. (Source: Museums & Galleries of NSW)
You might feel awkward asking your clients to sign a contract, but your business is your livelihood.
I have never met a client who refuses to sign a contract. An artwork contract agreement will make your business appear more professional.
When should an artist have a contract:
A legal agreement written by an attorney for the list above will help protect your artwork and your art business’s reputation.
Operating an art business with multiple revenue streams is challenging and there will be times when important tasks fall through the cracks.
One way you can protect your artwork and art business from these mishaps is by having a detailed contract that explains everything that relates to a specific job.
Your art contract does not have have to be complicated or a hundred pages.
A concise artist contract is the best.
Below I am going to share with you some information that should be included in contracts for visual artists.
This art sale contract template is just a guide and must be reviewed by your attorney to make it legal.
Your attorney will recommend any additional information your contract might need to protect you and your client.
How To Write Art Contacts In 6 Steps
- Client information
- Nature of work
- Payment Terms
- Terms and conditions
Contracts for artists should begin with your name (business name), business address, email, and phone number.
Next will be your client’s name, business or home address, email, and phone number.
This information makes it clear who is involved with the artwork sales agreement, rental, gallery showing, or art leasing.
Nature Of Work
The next section is to explain in detail what the project is and what each party is responsible for.
It does not matter if the contract is for a commissioned piece, leasing, or a gallery show, this section needs to be detailed and precise.
This section should answer:
- What is involved with the sale?
- Who is responsible for completing the job?
- When will the job be completed?
- How will the job be completed?
Below are some examples of questions that might need to be answered for gallery showings, commissioned prodjects and leasings:
- What is involved with the project?
- Who pays for damages at a gallery show?
- Who is accountable for the transportation of the art to a gallery show?
- Who is in charge of representing your art at a gallery show?
- Who is responsible for the costs of shipping?
- Who is in charge of the costs of insuring the art for shipping?
- Who is in charge of the cost of framing?
- Who is responsible for reference images for commission projects?
- How many times are you going to be in contact with the buyer during a commission project?
- Who pays for insurance or the costs of damages at leasing?
- How long is the leasing for?
- Who is responsible for transporting the art to the leasing?
The above questions are just examples of what you will want to add to this section.
The more questions you can answer, the better.
Your main objective is to have no questions about a particular job unanswered.
If you are leasing your art of presenting your art in a gallery show, you will want to include an itemized list of all the items you will be lending to them.
The itemized list should include:
- Images of the items
If you are hired for a commission project, you will want to include the details of the commission project like:
- Quality of the reference images (if you will use reference images for the project).
- The size of the painting or drawing.
- The medium used for the commission project.
- Are you going to provide a frame?
- When you will start the project?
- When you will finish the project?
- When you will be in contact with the buyer?
- Will you offer updates on the project?
- What is your refund policy?
Each project will be different, so the questions that must be answered will vary.
Art contracts must answer all the questions pertaining to a particular project.
Problems might occur when specific details are overlooked.
The timeline of a project could be included in the terms or you can dedicate an entire section for the timeline of the project.
Depending on the specifications of a project will determine if you need to dedicate a timeline section or not.
For example, it would be good to have a section dedicated to a timeline if you are leasing your art or having it shown at a gallery.
The timeline section should include the starting and ending dates.
- Date when the painting will be dropped off to a gallery.
- Date when the painting will be returned to the artist.
Having a timeline section for your commission jobs might even be a good idea.
The timeline section for a commission project could include:
- Starting date.
- Ending date.
- When will you email updates?
- Shipping date.
Commissions are slightly different because you might find yourself altering a painting or drawing because the buyer is requesting something different.
You can document how long it takes to complete a commission piece but include that completion time might vary.
If you are leasing your art, make it clear when the renter will receive your artwork and when the renter has to return it.
If you are showcasing your art in an art gallery, document when the gallery wants you to deliver your artwork and when you will receive your artwork back.
Artist contracts should have a section where you document the cost of a project, including additional fees and taxes.
All costs must be accurate and broken down into all project expenses.
For example, if you are writing a commission contract, the price breakdown might look like:
- Commission price – 700.00
- Frame – 75.00
- Shipping and handling – 25.00
- Shipping insurance – 25.00
- Total cost 825.00
- Do you require a deposit upfront?
- What is your refund policy?
- Do you accept cash, checks, or credit?
- What percentage will agents or galleries take?
A detailed list would make it clear to the buyer what they are paying and prevent you from losing money if you forget to disclose any additional fees.
Include your cancellation policy on your art contracts if it applies to the project.
If you are selling art online, you should already have a cancellation policy on your artist’s website.
You can include that information in the contract instead of writing a new cancellation policy.
Your cancelation policy should answer the following:
- Do you offer refunds if a project is canceled?
- When do you have to be notified for a project to be canceled?
- Do you offer money-back or credit on a new project?
This section is essential if you are hired for a commission.
Make it clear that you own the copyrights of your artwork, even if it is a commission project.
You will also want to document if you plan to make prints of the commission project or if you give the buyer the right to reproduce your artwork.
I offer a discount if the buyer allows me to reproduce the commissioned piece for commercial purposes.
The discount only applies to projects that could be sold as prints, like dog portraits, landscapes, etc.
I do not offer this for human portraits.
The last part of the business contract of sale is the signature of both parties.
This section includes an agreed-upon statement of the terms of the contract followed by the name printed, a signature, and the date signed.
Provide a copy of the contract to the client for their records.
A copy of the agreement will prevent the client from forgetting or misunderstanding specific details.
Artist Contract Template
As I have mentioned earlier, this post is just a guide to help you protect your art business by writing a contract.
It is essential to include every detail of each job and see it by your attorney.
There are templates available to make it quicker to write your contracts.
Artist Contract Templates:
Here are some sites that provide contract templates.
Keep in mind that an artist’s contract template is not legal unless you have it approved by your attorney.
You have worked hard to enhance your artistic skills and build an art business, make sure that you protect your career.
An essential part of any art contract is the details.
Make sure you include every detail, no matter how small they are.
Don’t forget to finalize your contracts with an attorney.