Don’t leave your artwork without a piece of paper

Let’s say you take your work to a venue (gallery, home, business, etc.) because someone has asked to see it in person. After you arrive, you’re asked to leave your art at the venue so that other people can see it. It’s fine to do this as long as you have something in writing.

Always get your art business transactions in writing! In this scenario, while you didn’t exchange money, you did agree to leave a valuable asset in the care of someone else.

The piece of paper (which might be called a loan agreement) you draw up should state your name, the title, dimensions, and value of each piece you’re leaving. Your agreement should also be clear that you retain ownership and copyright and that the venue agrees to insure the work while they have it in their possession. The art should not leave that venue without your written consent. It would be terrific if you have a photo printout of it–either attached to the document or printed on the same page.

You could also add a schedule for pickup–the deadline or date when you would like to retrieve the work.

Include a space on the document for both parties to sign.

Consider creating this document ahead of time and taking two copies with you so that you don’t have to hunt down a copy machine. You would then have two originals–one for you and one for the borrower.

What else am I forgetting?

(Note: Please consult with an attorney for your specific situation.)

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11 thoughts on “Don’t leave your artwork without a piece of paper”

  1. check to see where it is going to be…I don’t like my work sitting on a floor, especially with frameless painted canvas edges format- galleries often have special shelves where they will assure you your work won’t touch the ground-ask…-bring along a small piece of canvas or other fabric & ask that the piece sit on that, instead of on the floor…better yet, I have pretty water-resistant laundry bags which the piece arrives in…

  2. Excellent advice! Too often a casual loan or consignment ends up in a misunderstanding and trouble. I like what Sari added, too.

  3. With so many galleries having financial difficulties and closing down, artists should be sure there is a provision for their work in the event of bankruptcy or insolvency on the part of the gallery. In California, all artwork is ‘held in trust’ or something like that (I’m not an attorney) so that should the gallery shut down and the assets of the business go to the creditors, your artwork doesn’t end up being sold to pay the gallery’s bills! Check, check and double check.

  4. Ack. I hae 17 paintings at a local chef-owned restaurant. The artists change about once a month. I did not do any of that. *sigh* Still, I am very confident my work will be fine and I will get it back safely.

    I am going to remember this for the future though. “Self, get a contract and make sure we both sign it.”

  5. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Sari: Good advice.

    Tesia: Yes! And it’s different in every state. I think you’re probably lucky to have the CA law on your side.

    Patricia: You are obviously willing to take that chance, which is fine. It’s just that it’s something you can control, so the responsibility is ultimately yours.

  6. As a gallery owner (, I would WELCOME such a contract. I have a generic version on my computer’s desktop for the artists (most!) who don’t think of tracking who has their artwork (I can print 2 copies very quickly). It’s my consignment contract, and no artwork stays in my shop until it’s read, discussed, and signed. Boggles my mind, but that’s me–I’m a paper-trail-believer! 🙂

    Also, in Wisconsin, an artist’s “agent” (anyone who sells work for him/her, such as a gallery owner), must provide insurance coverage. It’s the law.

    Great blog post, Alyson!


  7. Pingback: Delivering Your Art to an Exhibit Venue: What to Expect — Art Biz Blog

  8. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to discuss the discount policy with the gallery and get that included in whatever loan agreement we sign. Turns out that every gallery has a different approach to giving discounts to their clients. It’s important for the artist to know whether the gallery plans to split the discount offered with the artist. If for example, a work sold at 1000 dollars retail with a 20% discount, and the discount is being split, then the artist would earn 400 dollars – even if the loan agreement says the artist is to get paid half the retail price.

  9. Pingback: Art Marketing Action + Podcast: Exceed Expectations — Art Biz Blog

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