Tip# 13 for emerging artist.. So you sold a piece of work

While this is not a goal of every artist it is something that many of us look forward too. But is it simply enough to just sell a piece?

One thing I have heard from a couple of artists is that if they sell their work they feel it is gone.. but that is far from the truth.

One of the ways to keep track of and retain the right to show the work in future exhibits is to have a agreement of ownership with the work that you sell. The agreement does more than protect your work, copyright and ability to borrow the piece for future shows, it also tells galleries and organizations that you are serious artist and well organized.

True collectors or art lovers will enjoy this as well as the value of the work will increase more by being shown in more exhibits than it will just sitting in someone’s house.

Here is a sample of an agreement that I place with my works…
Sales Contract: Agreement of Original Transfer of Work of Art

Agreement made as of the _____ day of _______, 20____, between __________________ (herein after referred to as “the Artist”), located at ____________________________________ and _______________________ (herein after referred to as “the Collector”), located at ____________________________________, with respect to the sale of an artwork (herein after referred to as “the Work”).

WHEREAS, the Artist has created the Work and has full rights, title, and interest therein; and
WHEREAS, the Artist wishes to sell the Work; and
WHEREAS, the Collector has viewed the Work and wishes to purchase it;
NOW THEREFORE, in condition of the foregoing premises and the mutual obligations, covenants, and conditions hereinafter set forth, and other valuable considerations, the parties hereto agree as follows:

1. Description of the Work. The Artist describes the Work as follows:

Title: ___________________________________ Medium: ____________ Size: ___________
Year Created: _______ Framing or mounting: _________ Signed by artist: Yes No

2. Sale. The Artist hereby agrees to sell the Work to the Collector. Title shall pass to the Collector at such time as full payment is received by the Artist pursuant to Paragraph 4 hereof.

3. Price. The Collector agrees to purchase the Work for the agreed upon price of $___________, and shall also pay any applicable sales or transfer taxes.

4. Payment. Payment shall be made in full upon the signing of the Agreement.

5. Retransfer. If the Collector in any way whatsoever sells, gives, or trades the Work, if it is inherited from the Collector, or if a third party pays compensation for its destruction, the Collector (or the representative of his estate) must notify the artist within thirty (30) days.

6. Transferees Bound. If anyone becomes the new owner of the Work, with notice of this contract, that person shall be bound to all its terms.

7. Copyright and Reproduction. The Artist reserves all reproduction rights, including the right to claim statutory copyright, in the Work. The Work may not be reproduced in any manner without the express, written consent of the Artist.

8. Exhibitions: The artist reserves the right to have access to the work of art for the purpose of exhibitions. The owner must inform the artist of any exhibits in which the work is exhibited in by the owner within 30 days prior to exhibition.

9. Miscellany. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding between the parties. Its terms can be modified only by an instrument in writing signed by both parties. A waiver of any breach of any of the provisions of the Agreement shall not be construed as a continuing waiver of other breaches of the same or other provisions hereof. This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of ____________.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have signed this Agreement as of the date set forth above.
COLLECTOR’S SIGNATURE _________________________________ DATE: ______________

ARTIST’S SIGNATURE _________________________________ DATE: ______________


  1. I’m no attorney, but this strikes me as a solution in search of a problem. I’m assuming the wary artist is selling a print of his/her photo. Pleas correct me if I’m wrong.

    If so, the person doesn’t understand what is being sold. To actually “sell” a “work” a creator (who owns all rights simply by creating the work) has to explicitly sell rights in writing, not simply a reproduction of the image. Thus there is no need for a contract like this.

    The only way for a work to be “gone” is if the creator contracts for transfer of copyright ownership per se—that is, ALL rights—for consideration. Otherwise, the creator holds all rights except those explicitly sold. For example, I sold a publisher rights to make notecards and postcards of half a dozen images; I retained all other rights, including making larger prints sold in the same stores.

    If a creator is worried that the buyer will assume copy rights from the purchase of the print, he or she could include a statement on the label that the item being purchased is a single print only; no copy rights are implied in the sale.

    Of course a copyright attorney may have a different perspective, but this is my understanding. We had a discussion of this in our camera club, which closed when the 89-year-old sage of the club (a brilliant photographer with decades of marvelous images) declared, “I would be flattered is someone thought a picture of mine was worth stealing.”


    1. I have worked with many galleries and worked for a collector a while ago, when I worked for them I noted the change of ownership contracts during that time. This protects your intellectual rights as well as the image. You may not think that people would steal your work, but they would. But also it protects the work in the future. This includes prints of your work. These a just guides though, if you choose not to do it, and someone does steal your work, than you know that you only have yourself to blame.

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