Remi Leibovic
Designer and Communicator

Research into Artist Contracts


Artist Contracts

A look into artist contracts


Abstract: As an art student, I found it important to have an understanding of business in the art world. Contracts are an agreement between two parties and one of the biggest defenses an artist has. Payment is a requirement however, many people do not have the respect for art in society as they once did. It is looked down upon, even art magazines publishing articles telling people that their BFA’s are useless. Yet, I do not believe this. I believe that if you are an artist with a strong sense of business and contracts that you will be just fine in the world. Business will get done and you will be paid. Regardless if it is a down payment or full, those with a strong sense of contracts and agreements will go farther than ones who do not.

Essay: A Research Analysis on Artist Contracts

Contracts are the most important part of an Artist’s work. They ensure payment, deadlines, and mutual understanding between client and creator. The genre of an artist’s contract is standard yet can be categorized into sub genres of their own. Every Artist who wishes to set off in a Freelance career should understand the workings of a true artist’s contract. Whether the contract be for allowing work to be exhibited or selling art work. An artist must understand that all of these proceedings are different and require different forms of documentation yet, they all fall under the same genre of the artist’s contract. That an artwork will be produced, the client will gain artwork, and the artist earn payment. I have analyzed this genre of artist contracts to educate not only myself but other up and coming artists about business in the art world.

In my research I have found that samples of contracts are easier to come by then actual published contracts. I speculate that this is because artwork varies, depending on what type of work it is. Such as installations versus paintings, illustrations versus digital design, and exc. However while researching, I have come across helpful websites such as, the professional artist tool kit, which actually lay out a format in which artists can take, for free, and modify to suit their needs. From this website, the contracts, “Contract for Commissioning of Artwork” and “Art Work Agreement” were analyzed. At a glance both of these contracts are different in title and in terms yet, they fall into and help define the genre of what a true artist contract is. In Addition, I was able to obtain a sample of a real gallery contract created by the Bergen Community College Art Club for their annual “Student Art Exhibit”. Also, Charles Bazerman’s article, “Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People” helped define the aspects of what creates a genre in the professional world. Quotes from this article are helpful to any professional trying to understand the terms of their genre or another’s and as an artist myself, it helped me define the aspects of professional communication in the art career field.

The article by Charles Bazerman talks about the importance of understanding a documents genre. He states, “Understanding these genres and how they work in the systems and circumstances they were designed for, can help you as a writer fulfill the needs of the situation, in ways that are understood and speak to the expectations of others.” (Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Bazerman) Artists in the Freelancing world, must understand what exactly it is that they are structuring their contracts around. An artist contract, if done correctly does meet the all the needs of the situation. Bazerman also states, “Such an understanding can also help you diagnose and redesign communicative activity systems, to determine whether a particular set of document used at certain moments is redundant or misleading, whether new documents need to be added, or whether some details of a genre might be modified.” (Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Bazerman) The artist must be clear on all fronts of their contracts. There cannot be any room for error because art is a product. Whatever the situation, the product is being sold, copied or displayed. The artist and client must understand what these terms mean to both of theme. There must be mutual understanding between both parties.

The good thing about being an upcoming artist is the fact that there are plenty of examples in the modern age to base contracts off of. Websites of artist guilds freely display what the standard artist’s contract looks like. These examples and samples are viewed at by the community as fact. In analyzing a modifiable document from, a website that states it mission is to help artists, particularly Freelance artists, clarity is made top priority. In this particular sample, “Art Work Agreement” the contract is divided into sections that are made clear with bold print. Also, there is even a summary of what the artwork is supposed to entail in the beginning of the contract. In the first section titled, “Scope of Work Commissioned” the artist and client are brought to their first shared terms on the art stating, “Artist and Client expressly agree that the artwork to be created by Artist pursuant to Client’s specifications shall be limited to, unless modified in a writing signed by both parties, the following artwork, hereafter known as “the Work” (Art Work Agreement, Art Pact) There are no sub sections and everything is summarized to ensure clear communication. Also, in the document by the website, “Contract for Commissioning of Artwork” states, “The BUYER does hereby retain the ARTIST to perform the work and services hereinafter described.” (Contract for Commissioning Artwork, Art Pact) What is a fact to an artist is not always fact to the client, and in the world of art clarity is given through the language of art.

In addition, when artists wish to participate in events within the art community, there is a mutual understanding because the world of art is a discourse community within itself. There is certain vocabulary used amongst artist to communicate what must be done on a project. Galleries are the most common way to showcase artwork and they are locations which normally host artistic events within the community. Which leads to the form of communication within the artistic community that revolves around artistic events. When showcasing artwork, a gallery must know what to expect, how to present the art and how long the art will be presented for. In

the “Student Art Exhibit” contract from the Bergen Community College Art Club, it clearly asks

a set of questions to the artist, “Does it need to be assembled? Yes        No          Does it need to

be hanged? Yes       No          Does it need screws and wire? Yes       No        .” (Bergen


Community College Art Club Creative Visions Art Exhibit Contract, Davis) There are clear instructions for the artist participating to inform the gallery what exactly must be done in order for their work to be presented. Nothing can be clearer to a gallery owner then a yes or no answer.

However, these questions can be overlooked by most participants depending on the type of font. Typography and layout are key when it comes to organizing a contract. How urgent the section is presented can have an impact on the viewer. In the sample taken from, there are eleven different sections, whose titles are in a strong black bold print. The font of these contracts are readable and make the contract seem more precise. The Bazerman article states, “Second, it ignores how people may see each text in different way, because of their different knowledge of genres, the different systems they are part of, the different positions and attitudes they have about particular genres, or their different activities at the moment.” (Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Bazerman) Everyone sees things in different ways and has their own ways of reading them. Yet, contracts are a dialogue that all parties must understand. Presentation of this communication must be visually appealing to all parties. Style, font and size are all elements that play key roles in visual organization.

Organizing a contract with using elements of visual style is much more appealing to the eye then contracts without. Design is one of the traits that all artists share. If a person is an artist, they can definitely create a visually appealing layout. Since these are contracts however, the artist must be clear on what they wish to sell. Visual appeal can be anything from sections of the contract being visually appealing mainly revolves around importance. How which sections of the contract hold more weight than others. A common way one can display that weight is by using fonts. For example, bold font usually means importance, as do colored sections. Bazerman states, “If we start following communicative patterns that other people are familiar with, they may recognize more easily what we are saying and trying to accomplish.” (Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Bazerman) The way that font is organized in a contract can really inform both parties on what they desire to be the final outcome. Even in the samples given by the section is numbered, in bold, and the information of what the section entails is normal. There is a level of importance organized within the contract and the layout certainly helps bring that out.

Organization communicates importance and also helps register information. Information registered in contracts become common knowledge to both the artist and the client. Both parties must understand the text that they both are agreeing to. If the layout and organization of the contract is done correctly, then the agreement being spoken about can be understood. The client must know what they are asking of the artist. While the artist must know what the client is asking of them. Bazerman states, “Words do not only mean things, they do things” (Speech Acts, Genres and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Bazerman). It is an artist contract, a final product must be produced in order for overall payment. The work must be done. There are punishments for work not getting done. For example, in the, “Student Art Exhibit” contract by the BCC Art Club, it states, “I allow my artwork to be shown in the Bergen Community College’s Art Club’s student exhibition. I know that I must return to retrieve my work after the exhibition is over. I know that I have until the 13th of May 2015 to retrieve my art work from the Bergen Community College’s Art Club’s student exhibition or I will not be able to get it back.”(Bergen Community College Art Club Creative Visions Art Exhibit Contract, Davis) If the artists participating in the exhibit did not collect their work by a certain date they would not have it back at all. Most contracts do have a section in which they elaborate on the problems that will happen if the artwork is not completed by a certain date. There is usually a punishment set for both sides of the party. Yet for this particular example, the artist would not get their artwork back and the club would not be responsible for the loss of their work. This information registers within both sides. That there will be some form of punishment for the job not getting done. However, usually artists and clients try their best to work together to ensure that the worse does not happen. Hence the information section of the, “Student Art Exhibit” gallery contract. The club can contact the artist in several different ways including, phone, cellphone and email. This ensures that the worst case scenario will be avoided unless no other option is left but to do so. Contracts are the most important part of an Artist’s and their client’s communication.

They specifically cover all aspects of the artistic process and how to proceed with the payment of them. Artists who wish to begin a Freelance career should understand the workings of a true artist’s contract and how to create them. There are plenty of good samples and examples of contracts out there that are displayed online by the artistic community. The artist must also clearly communicate to the client and the client to the artist. Without proper layout, confusion can be made and facts will not register to the client or to the artist. That is why organization is key in communicating what both parties clearly want as their end result. All artists wishing to pursue a career in freelance should certainly research these contracts, for it will definitely help them develop proper communicative skills within their community, amongst clientele and will help them grow as professionals.

Works Cited

ARTWORK AGREEMENT (2014): 1-3. Tecture, 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.


Davis, Makayla. Bergen Community College Art Club Creative Visions Art Exhibit Contract. 2 Feb. 2014. This is the copy for the student participating in the BCC Art Clubs annual student art exhibit. The title for this show was creative visions. Bergen Community College, Paramus New Jersey.

Davis, Makayla. Student Exhibition Submission Form. 2 Feb. 2014. A contract for those who wished to participate in the Bergen Community College Art Club’s annual student gallery.

Bergen Community College, Paramus, New Jersey.