Sunday, May 3, 2009

10 Tips for Artist's Consignment Agreements

"Poetry in Red"
©J Licsko
12"x9" oil on canvas
(lost but not forgotten)

All four members of my immediate family are professional artists, but sometimes we are unprofessional where it matters most.  Just recently, we had a scare when we thought perhaps a gallery might have sold a work and neglected to tell us.  Our first thought was that our consignment agreement would back us up.  That comfort faded quickly when we couldn't find the agreement for that one painting.  
Under these circumstances, what does the artist do?  Well, in our case, we have had a long term, friendly, and profitable relationship with our dealer, and it turns out that the painting is still in the gallery. All is well. 
Well, no it isn't.  There is a lesson here.  Sloppy records and filing of those records, can cost thousands of dollars, and leave a bitter taste in one's mouth.
Two years ago, I took several paintings to a well known gallery in Carmel, Ca. that had been in business for over 20 years.  An agent had taken my work there initially. My relationship with the agent had ended, and I went to the gallery  to establish a more personal relationship with the director and sales staff.  It was my intention to deliver some originals, and verify the inventory of the prints they still had in stock.  It turned out that they were a disorganized group, and together we made some errors.  I will accept responsibility for the error, because after all, it was my art, and my money.  I thought I had been careful, but the one painting "Poetry in Red", that I was so proud to put in the gallery was not entered onto the final consignment contract
Living  about a two hour drive away from the gallery, I did not go often to check on the status of my paintings and prints. I relied on emails to keep me up to date.  The gallery was mostly a print gallery, and the originals were not selling.  Nearly a year later, I decided to take them out, and was quite surprised that my favorite  painting,   "Poetry in Red" was not in the gallery.  They, in fact, told me that they had no record of ever having the painting.  Of course, I referred to my consignment agreement; my heart sunk as I saw it was not listed.  I had been so focused on proper display, relationships, being perceived as an "easy to work with" artist, etc., I forgot to include the painting in the consignment agreement.  
The gallery staff appeared to be very concerned and helpful in finding the painting no one could remember, but it has never been found.  The gallery has since closed it's doors and the painting is lost to me forever.
I am pretty sure I know who has the painting.  Just a gut feeling, that's all I have.  All I can say is I hope it gives them pleasure.  It would be sad to think that it was locked in a drawer some where and it would never be seen.

So,  I offer some tips to all my fellow artists:  
  1. Accept that every so often, we must take off our arty beret, and wear a business hat.  During that time we must be very organized. It is just as important as creating the painting.  
  2. Create a personal consignment sheet matrix that covers what is important to you and use it each time, only having to add the specific information such as gallery name, art work title, date, length of consignment and so on. 
  3. Get everything organized before your meeting, and make a check list of what must be accomplished before you leave the gallery.
  4. Visit your gallery often, getting to know you helps them educate  potential clients about you and your work.  Seeing you often keeps you in mind, and tells them you are keeping track of your business.
  5. Immediately after your appointment,  file your signed copy of your consignment agreement in a file created for each gallery.
  6. And/or, keep a hard copy of each consignment agreement in a three ringed binder.
  7. As fences make good neighbors, a well worded consignment sheet protects both gallery and the artist, and your relationship.
  8. If a gallery won't sign your consignment agreement, reconsider the value of your relationship with them. Make a counter offer on the details that concern to you.
  9. Don't sign a consignment agreement created by the dealer without taking sufficient time to read it, and paying full attention to how the details might affect you the artist during a dispute. Go have a coffee and read it.
  10. You do not have to accept what might be called "a standard contract". Everything should be negotiable.
Next post, I will list the points I think are essential to an artist's consignment contract.


  1. Sorry to hear of your loss. I doubt it is tucked away anywhere. It has such lovely color and light and design someone is enjoying it.

  2. What a terrible loss of a beautiful work of art. I agree with "onpainting"...someone somewhere is enjoying it at your expense.Thank you so much for your sage advice!

  3. Hi Joanne, thanks for sharing your experience. I've read carefully, your text is so helpful. Thanks again!