A few days ago, we read that the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York lost a lawsuit against the sculptor Diana Al-Hadid, an artist she represented until 2019; the point of contention being the property of a bronze sculpture. The gallery had advanced money for the making of the work, on the basis of which it claimed ownership. Despite the contracts in place, the case ended up in court, where the decision was in favor of the artist.

In India, where paperwork in the art industry was virtually non-existent until a few years ago, and most interactions were based on verbal commitments and mutual trust, the art world art is obviously fertile ground for possible fraudulent actions. Although the art scene has moved on to some degree now with a certain amount of paperwork in place, contracts and agreements continue to be largely sketchy with bare operating executives.

Instances where artwork and payments are withheld by galleries and dealers, or where artists sell artwork privately despite agreements with a gallery, in order to avoid paying them their share, are among the most common activities that cause conflict. Some of them settle out of court, while artists often remain silent because they don’t know who to turn to — the idea of ​​going to court can be daunting. The time, effort and money required to pursue lengthy lawsuits remains a huge deterrent.

Sort in advance

To list, a few factors that need to be clarified upfront include terms defining gallery representation, exclusivity, sales commissions, length of representation, discounts, geographic coverage, shipping terms , the exit clause and the jurisdiction in case of conflict – all this must be settled in advance. Similarly, in the case of a sale, payment terms, transfer of copyright, fair use, royalty and proof of authenticity are some of the points that should be covered in agreements. and contracts. Although artist contracts and agreements are available online, it is best to use them as a template and adapt them to specific requirements, depending on individual situations and the nature of the work.

The good news is that changes are also taking place in the Indian art world and most professional galleries, consultants, curators and artists are putting in place terms, conditions and agreements that cover various aspects of business dealings. Many of them also consult with law firms and counsel to ensure that in the event of a dispute, the legal aspects are taken care of.

The author is an art consultant, curator and writer based in Bengaluru. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached at [email protected]

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