"An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one."
- Charles Horton Cooley
There is a great discussion regarding an artist manifesto occurring on LinkedIn started by Karen Atkinson of GYST. It got me thinking of my own manifesto. What I've learned over the years comes partly through the School of Hard Knocks as well as from reading, talking with others, and taking a few business classes. I don't know if they are rights, but they are the basic terms of how I do business.
Contracts: I expect a contract spelling out the terms between myself and the gallery owner, curator, magazine editor, education director, whomever. These terms may include copyright, insurance, payment schedule, installation dates and requirements, collector discounts, etc. If the other party doesn't have a contract available (unbelievable, but still happens), then I will submit one for their review. I won't work with another party without a contract.
Price: I determine the wholesale price of my work. The gallery does not. I don't determine the retail price unless asked or when selling at an art fair. When asked to give a retail price, I double my wholesale price which is the same price I sell my work at an art fair. My wholesale prices may go up over time, including with older work, to reflect the advances in my career and increases in the cost of living.
Insurance: I expect to receive a copy of the certificate of insurance from the gallery, library, museum, coffee shop etc. detailing to what extent my work is being covered. If they don't have insurance coverage and I decide to proceed with the exhibition, I will provide them with a copy of my certificate of insurance. If I am doing a temporary, site specific installation, and don't care about the end condition of my work, I spell this out in the contract.
Insurance Part 2: I expect the gallery, museum, library, building owner etc. to cover general liability. This point is becoming increasingly more important to me as I participate in more pop-up galleries in vacant store fronts. If someone comes to view the work, trips and ends up in the emergency room, I don't want them coming to me for expense reimbursement.
Teaching: I expect as a teaching artist to receive compensation commiserate with that of other teaching professionals. I am not a babysitter. I am an art educator sharing my experience as an artist with others. I am also not the provider of materials. I do my fair share of scrounging and bin diving, but if I must purchase new brushes for that outreach program as none are available, then I need to buy them and expect reimbursement. Again, terms for this teaching arrangement are spelled out in the contract - including supply budget and the ownership of intellectual property (lesson plans).
These are my highlights. I appreciate receiving the name of the collector when my work is sold, but I don't expect the contact information. This speaks to a point on professional integrity. Too many artists get this information and then sell directly to the collectors, underpricing the galleries representing them. This type of behavior makes it difficult for everyone and is the primary reason many galleries don't provide contact information, let alone the name of the collector.
I do donate work to certain charities. Unfortunately, the amount we can deduct on our taxes is determined by the IRS. I write yearly to my congressional representatives requesting that I receive the same donation tax write off as a collector and every year I receive a polite thank you note for my letter. Until the system changes, I only donate to charities that give me half of the selling price or to those close to my heart.
I would like to see a royalty compensation for the resale of my work if I still hold the copyright to it. Why should a collector who bought an early piece of my work be able to turn around 20 years later and sell it for much more than they paid for it and I receive nothing in return? They wouldn't necessarily receive a higher amount if I didn't work my tushy off to develop and expand my career.
What is in your manifesto? What do you consider an important right as an artist? What is on your wish list?