One of the biggest mistakes artists and other creatives make is entering into agreements without a written contract. Verbal agreements are poor contracts when breach of contract issues arise. Artists will encounter the following contracts in the course of their business:
Commission or Fee for Service Contracts
Artists will encounter these kinds of contracts whether they are putting on an art exhibition, creating a painting or mural for a commission, or any other situation in which the artist is being paid for their services. These contracts lay out the scope of the project, the expectations of both parties, the compensation for the artist, the timeline for the project, and the remedy for breach of the contract among other important provisions to protect both parties.
These are beneficial contracts for artists because they provide additional revenue to the licensor. A licensing contract gives another party the right to produce copies of the work, change or modify the work, distribute the work, or publicly display the work. These contracts are between the licensor (the artist) and the licensee (party using the work), and will lay out the rights the licensor has to the work, the licensee’s compensation, remedies for breach, and other provisions to protect the artwork and both parties.
This kind of agreement is relevant when an artist receives a grant to complete a project. The contract will lay out the amount of the grant and the schedule of payment, the term of the project, the requirements for the project, and any other issues relevant to the project and payment.
An artist will encounter loan agreements when an institution borrows an artist’s work for a temporary display or period. These contracts will lay out the dates of the loan period, responsibility for insurance, procedures for transporting the artwork, and other relevant provisions for loaning the artwork.
A consignment contract is between an artist and a gallery when the artist is providing the gallery with art for free for the gallery to sell the artwork. In these situations, the gallery receives a commission for selling the artwork, so the percentage of gallery commission and the price of the artwork are both important terms of the agreement. Other terms can include the length of the consignment period, exclusivity for the gallery and artist, and expenses for displaying and marketing the artwork.
Artists should put the terms of any of their agreements in writing to avoid litigation and issues in the future. Additionally, artists should carefully review the terms of each contract and would benefit from working with an attorney to ensure these terms are fair.