Artist's Contracts - Creative Law Center

Artist’s Contracts

Sell Your Work, Not Your Rights: Artists’ Contracts [Workshop Replay with Two Form Agreements]

The art world is not particularly protective of artists. It’s unregulated. It lacks transparency. In reality, the art world exploits artists.

It is up to artists to protect themselves.

One way to do that is be knowledgeable about and use good contracts.

Contracts matter for artists. They are important for artists who are the beginning stages of their careers as well as for successful, more established artists.

When you sell a piece of art, you’ve only sold the individual piece. You haven’t sold the bundle of rights that were created when you created the piece — the copyrights.

If you use a contract, a sales or commission agreement, then when you sell your work, you are able establish rights in your work that live on after it leaves your possession. Rights beyond copyright. Rights that can gain value and potentially increase your revenue streams over time.

The key is to be sure that you understand not only your copyrights, but the rights that you can create by contract.

This workshop will explore two contracts essential to building a career as a visual artist. The first is a sales agreement known as the FARE Contract. The second is a commission agreement.

The FARE (Fair Artist’s Reserved Equity) Contract is an artist-centered sales contract. It is available for free at We will explore the terms of the FARE Contract and how they can be customized to suit your practice including:

  • the resale royalty provision
  • notice to the artist of resale
  • control over how and where the work is exhibited
  • entitlement to a share of any exhibit fees
  • the right to borrow the work for retrospectives or group shows
  • the right to be consulted if repair work is needed

We will also talk about the practicalities of asking buyers to sign a contract when buying artwork, how to decide which terms are important to you and which you will give up.

A commission agreement can incorporate all of the provisions of the FARE Contract and addresses the additional complexity of working with someone who has hired you to create a specific piece.

A commission contract manages client expectations and gives the artist control over the process including:

  • project description
  • price
  • payment terms
  • project dates and schedule
  • project requirements or limitations
  • framing, shipping, and installation
  • approval or check in process
  • change requests
  • reproduction rights

Commission contracts improve the chances of being paid in full and on time for your work. It manages changes in the project and allows you to plan your workflow.

Using a contract shows that you value and respect your work enough to protect it. Contracts are tools that allow artists to build professional relationships with collectors while earning a living wage throughout their career.

It is a tool you should have in your toolbox.

You’ll get an email with the link for for the workshop replay and resources once you sign up. You will have lifetime access to the replay.

About the Author

Kathryn Goldman helps small business people, writers, artists, and creative professionals make a living from their creative work by teaching them how to protect and enforce their rights. She is an attorney who writes these posts to help you be more thoughtful about intellectual property and the law as you build your business, write your stories, and create your art.