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The Value Of A Signed Contract For Artists

A few days ago my manager went to pick up art from a hotel who had called to say that after a few months, nothing had sold. When he went to pick up the art, he discovered that 1/4 of my work had actually sold. Which, given the limited amount of time my work had been hanging in the hotel during the off season, was in line with other spaces my work was selling at in the same area.

The hotel manager tried to argue with my manager and insisted that all that work had been stolen. And was trying to not pay for any of it. Even though the art was in a restricted area that was not easily accessible to non employees. If I had not made sure to give my manager the paperwork from when he dropped the work off, that clearly stated the name of the hotel, the manager’s signature, and a detailed list of the work and the commission I would not have gotten paid.

My advice to everyone is, next time before you drop off work anywhere, make sure you have in writing a detailed list of what you are dropping off, how much it costs and what you expect to get back. This takes maybe 1/2 an hour of time, but is so worth the extra effort should something go wrong. I also generally have a legal contract associated with my work. But for smaller, non original limited edition work I sometimes decide to not scare people off with a legal contract as well. (Which is a risk I weigh individually.)

Because I’m not an attorney, I ordered a legal documents book for artists I found at my local book store called The Visual Artist’s Business and Legal Guide by Gregory T. Victroff. I have since easily modified my documents based on that book. And I will say that in the ten years or so that I have been leaving art somewhere, this is the first time I have had an issue. But I was very glad I had developed this practice when my manager returned with both my art and a check for the sold work. If you don’t have a local art store that caries these types of legal books, you can also order one from Amazon. Here’s a link for the book I use and a few others.

How about you? Have you even been really glad you had a contract?

For more about showing art see An Art Show Is Never just About the Show

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