Paintings and sculpture
There has been quite a lot of interest and debate over the legal issues artists face with consignment of work into shops, art shows and galleries. With the economy affecting such establishments negatively, there have been many closures and some artists are getting caught out, loosing work that they can’t prove they own or scrupulous business owners simply doing a disappearing act taking the artwork with them and artists unable to track them down. Some feel that artists are left with a one sided relationship based on trust where they are the only ones taking risks and facing liability if things go wrong.
A careful read of most gallery or art show contracts show that there is an ‘all care and no responsibility’ clause meaning if something is damaged or lost you have to prove that they didn’t take reasonable care in preventing the situation to be able to get any compensation. Contracts also reveal a lack of insurance on most parts, asking the artist to cover their work again leaving them vulnerable to being left without cover if situations like shoplifting of your consignment goods happens where insurance becomes null and void, never mind the extra cost such an insurance attracts and then a close look at the fine print often reveals you will only get paid out on the cost of materials like a few dollars for paint and a canvas or the raw materials you used for your sculpture etc.
It’s a disturbing trend where artists often leave their artwork at shops and galleries with no paperwork involved and no more than a verbal agreement on basic things like price. It’s easy enough to write out a consignment note on a receipt book purchased form any stationary shop so both parties have a copy that states clearly the agreed price and titles of artworks along with a statement making it clear that the items listed are on consignment and belong to the artist until paid for in full or returned. This is called a ‘ROMELPA clause’ and you find out more information on that here - http://www.howtolaw.co.nz/html/ml251.asp
Unfortunately it’s not as cut and dried as it used to be in that once upon a time that was all you needed, with the advent of the PERSONAL PROPERTY SECURITIES ACT 1999 (PPSA) that came into force in 2002, you need to cross those ‘t’s’ and dot those ‘i’s’ a lot more than before.
So what can you do to prevent this happening to you? First up the paperwork suggested above does help much better than having no proof what so ever, but keeping a good eye on things, keeping in contact with the places you deal with and keeping in touch with other artists involved in the same area so that you can let each other know of any concerns before anything does happen and you can get your work out safely.
With the damage of artworks there is not really a lot you can do without proof of wilful damage or neglect, but a quick word to other artists around town often will reveal if it’s a common trend for a certain establishment to not look after their stock etc. If artists start communicating better with each other we can perhaps take back a bit of that control over what happens to our work and make galleries and shops more responsible for upholding their side of the bargain.