Art Business Basics: What to include in a contract

Are you familiar with an angry buyer refusing to pay you? You get a call from your gallery stating that your pieces were due yesterday but that you have another week.

It must be clarified when so much is happening in your art business. Your livelihood and reputation are at stake. When misunderstandings occur, it is usually your art business that needs improvement.

There is a way to protect your business and art from these problems.

The solution? The solution? A contract. A contract is essential for everyone to understand their responsibilities, whether it’s a commission, consignment, or gallery show. It’s also something you can refer to in case of emergency.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. The best contractors will be more precise and more concise. Here are some essential elements to include in your contract. This will help you protect your art business.

Client Information

To ensure that everyone is clear and understands who is involved, start your contract by stating each party’s name, business, email address, and telephone number.

Terms and Information

Next, describe the project’s scope and who each person is responsible for. This is the place to be very clear and specific, regardless of whether it’s a contract for new gallery representations or a commission piece.

Consider every aspect of the project, from start to finish. Then answer these questions: What are the responsibilities? Who will manage it? When? How?

Dig deeper to determine exact details like:

Who pays for shipping, framing, and ensuring the artwork? Who is responsible for the cost of damaged work?

What level of involvement can the client have in the commission process? What is the procedure for revising? What is the minimum number of times you must meet with your client?

Who determines the price, and what records are kept about your sales if you work with a gallery? What is the minimum number of pieces a show requires, how do you determine the layout, and who will be setting up the displays?

Who is responsible for marketing your gallery show or pieces? This may limit what you post online or on social media. Who is allowed to use images of your artwork?

Is the art being consigned or not? What are the selling rights of a gallery/retailer? Are they allowed to sell exclusive rights? What time will it take for your art to be returned to you?

TIP: While these questions can be a good starting point, they should be considered a partial list. Consider consulting a lawyer to help you understand the terms of your particular art business project.

Project Timeline

It doesn’t matter if you include the timeline in the terms or create a whole section; it is essential to state the time expectations for your project clearly.

Each party will have responsibilities that must be fulfilled by a specific date or time to complete the project successfully. The contract section should also include the consequences if one party fails.

For example, an artist should only be held responsible for a project’s late completion date if the client provided the required feedback within the deadline. The gallery cannot hold them accountable if an artist fails to deliver their work on schedule.

Payment Terms and Prices

In the section, you should indicate the cost and price of the project. You should identify who is responsible for what and any hidden fees and taxes. Also, set due dates and payment processes.

Is there a deposit, monthly payments, and the final payment? Accept credit cards, cash, or checks? What percentages will galleries, wholesalers, and other agents accept?

You can concentrate on the art by addressing the financial terms early.


Although it may only be required for some contracts, it is a good idea to include a list of the artworks you intend to give to the gallery or retailer when consigning artwork.

You can add images to this list and details such as title, medium, description, and price. With Artwork Archives, you can create a professional-looking list for your clients. You need to select the pieces and details that you want from your inventory, and voila!

Artist’s Rights

This section does not have to be extended. It can be about maintaining the copyrights on your artwork.

Cancellation Terms

You can also include details about who will be responsible for canceling the contract and the next steps. Consider making the initial deposit of your client non-refundable so that you don’t get charged for any time or effort spent on the project.

Acceptance Of Agreement

To finalize the contract, you should include an agreed-upon statement. This statement should contain the terms of the agreement followed by the names and signatures of both parties and the date.

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