Sunday, December 26, 2010

Representation Agreements


The purpose of a good agreement is to cover, in writing, every single aspect of the relationship between the artist and the gallery in a way that is agreeable to both parties. A good contractual agreement has each party in possession of a signed and dated copy.

Artists entering this kind of relationship agree that the gallery/dealer has exclusive rights to the sale of the artist’s work and services in a defined market area (usually the city in which the exhibition/sales outlet functions — often an even wider market). A representation agreement can be negotiated to any mutually satisfying terms between the artist and the dealer—but there is usually a concern for exclusivity. In such an agreement, the dealer earns a percentage of all sales except on sales exempted by mutual arrangement.

Galleries, dealers, consultants, curators, and publishers, often have existing contracts. You should read them carefully and consider consulting peer professionals, a lawyer or a trusted artist-friend before signing one. You should strive to understand everything in the contract. If you have any questions about a clause, or if you feel a clause, as read, does not properly express its intent, ask the dealer/gallery to explain it for you in writing and append the interpretation to the agreement copies of both parties bearing the signed initials of the dealer.

Invest in your own contract—put together one that gives you confidence, building on an existing model. Sample agreements are available through various sources:

  • From galleries, dealers or fellow artists.
  • Professional development books and websites for visual artists
  • From visual arts service organizations or clubs in your area
Artists are advised not to copy a standard agreement no matter how good it appears to be. All such sources should be viewed as advisory. They can provide guidance on language, structure and content with which they can become knowledgeable about the contractual agreement they are considering, but due diligence is the key. A modest investment of research, writing and legal consultation can provide artists with a contract for a lifetime. Perhaps the best source of contractual advice for visual artists (plus sample contracts) is CARFAC Ontario’s publication, “Artist’ Contracts.”

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