About 50% of galleries don't have formal consignment agreements with their artists. If you're still operating a "handshake gallery," it's time to start protecting both your business and your artists with consignment agreements.
Consignment agreements define the terms of the business partnership
At the end of the day, the relationship between an artist and a gallery is a business partnership, hopefully a long-term and mutually beneficial one.
Consignment agreements outline the terms of this business partnership and set expectations for both parties, preventing complications and misunderstandings down the line.
"Times are changing. We used to operate more informally, but that's just not an option anymore. We've found consignment agreements are helpful not just for us at the gallery, but they also protect our artists."
- Gallery Owner, Denver
Include a copy of the agreement for each body of work
You may be tempted to have a new artist sign a consignment agreement only when the gallery first starts representing her/him.
However, as a best practice, you'll want to send the artist a full copy of the consignment agreement for each body of work consigned to the gallery. Both parties should sign the consignment agreement and keep a copy for their records.
The consignment agreement should always include a list of the artwork consigned to the gallery, along with images and pertinent information.
Topics covered in consignment agreements
While consignment agreements vary from gallery to gallery, some of the main topics you'll want consignment agreements to cover include:
- Agency: what is the scope of the gallery's agency to sell artwork on behalf of the artist?
- Pricing: what percentage of the sale do the artist and gallery each receive, and what discounts, if any, are permitted?
- Payments: how and when will artists get paid?
- Shipping: which party is responsible for shipping costs, both to the gallery and for any artwork returned to the artist?
- Liability: how is damage liability handled when the artwork is in transit and at the gallery?