By Veronica Baxter, Guest Blogger - Visual artists must be prepared when negotiating a contract with an art gallery. This article will discuss how to prepare for the contract negotiation. Whether you are a new artist looking to get your work noticed, or an established artist trying to break into a new space, you will find valuable tips to secure a lucrative contract in an art gallery.

Have a List of Requirements and Questions Well Ahead of the Negotiation

Regardless of the industry, you should always know what you want during a negotiation. You need to confidently articulate what you want out of the business relationship to be taken seriously from a business perspective.

This means you’ll need to ask many questions.

Questions to Ask During a Contract Negotiation With an Art Gallery

The goal of asking questions is to get a concrete understanding of the business relationship from start to finish. Your questions should be designed so that the answers clearly define your responsibilities and those of the art gallery. Your questions should range across a wide variety of topics -- from marketing to logistics and beyond.

 

Marketing questions to consider:

  • What will the art gallery do to promote and market your work?
  • What do you need to do in regards to promotion and marketing?
  • Will you need to create new exclusive pieces for the gallery?
  • Do exclusive pieces need their contracts to determine the duration of exclusivity?
  • How much will be allocated for a marketing budget?

Logistical Questions to consider:

  • Will my work be exhibited elsewhere or rotated out on a tour?
  • Who pays for shipping, handling, and insurance?
  • If I make a sale instead of the gallery, do I get the commission?
  • How are the selling prices determined?
  • What are the commission fees and what goes into calculating commission fees?

Display Questions to Consider:

  • How much gallery space will you need vs. how much they are willing to give?
  • Do I have a say in how my art is displayed?
  • Do I get to restrict who I share my gallery space with?
  • How often will I need to present and discuss my work on-site?
  • Do I need to produce work on-site?

Arm Yourself With Knowledge of the Contract Negotiation Process

The artist with their head in the clouds is a frustrating yet persistent stereotype. Yet, there are plenty of successful artists who possess strong business acumen. The artist who can advocate on their own behalf during negotiations will be able to dodge this negative stereotype more easily and secure a better contract as a result.

Here are some must-know contractual tips:

Try To Get an Escape Clause

Escape clauses are essential in contracts with an art gallery. They allow either party to nullify the contract when a clearly defined term or condition is not met. Escape clauses are not to be confused with breach-of-contract clauses.

The difference is that both parties can agree to nullify a yearlong contract if, say, there are no sales after six months. In this example, neither party breached the contract; however, a specific condition was not met. Therefore, it is in the interest of both parties to nullify the agreement.

Push For an Arbitration/Mediation Clause

This clause stipulates that before either party resorts to a lawsuit, a mediator must be brought in to settle any contractual disputes. Both parties must hire a mediator. These clauses are important to bring up in negotiations because they are intended to prevent a costly lawsuit.

Make Sure the Indemnification Clause Works Both Ways

Indemnification clauses are designed so that if one party misrepresents themselves, their work, or if one party breaches part of the contract, then the offending party is responsible for the legal fees associated with any ensuing litigation. Sometimes these are one-sided and apply only when the artist breaches the contract. Negotiate so that the indemnification clause applies to both sides.

Come to the Negotiation Table Prepared

This article is far from exhaustive, but it is intended to get you thinking about the negotiation process in the way a lawyer would. You must ask questions to lay out the responsibilities of both parties clearly. The more detail, the better the deal. You also need to familiarize yourself with specific clauses and legalese that will lead to a fair and lucrative contract.

Veronica Baxter is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for Yao Law, an entertainment and immigration lawyer in New Jersey.

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