Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Anatomy of an art commission

It all started at the 2016 SOFA Art fair in Chicago last November, where my work was being shown by the hard-working Audrey Wilson, when (after the fair ended) a well-known Chicago area art consultant emailed me:

I am an Art Consultant from the Chicago area. Saw your work at SOFA and would be interested in talking about a possible commission piece, for a client
What would be the best way to reach you?

I respond to her that I am very interested and that I am forwarding her email to the gallery which was showing me there, which is the right thing to do, so that the gallery can coordinate the possible commission.
Lesson One to artists: Do not screw your art dealer, who put up the sheckels to show your work at a fair, or a gallery show, and thus deserve a commission for the possible… ahhh… commission.

How much commission does the gallery take for a private commission of an art piece? This should be clearly stated in your contract between the artist and the gallery.

Lesson One point one: Make sure that you have a written contract with your gallery.
Emails later, I am dealing directly with the art consultant. She emails me an image of a drawing that she saw in SOFA and is looking to see if I’m interested in doing two very large versions of the drawing which are to be mirror images of each other.

Like a good art consultant, she then reminds me:
Please keep in mind when considering pricing that I do need to get a percentage of the sale  I will charge my client retail value but just like a gallery I take a percentage and that is negotiated with artist per piece. Just wanted to bring that to your attention.
Lesson two to artists: The industry standard in these cases is about a 20% commission to the consultant.

I then prepare a commission proposal for her:
Description: Two 36x66 inches original charcoal and conte drawings on pH-balanced, acid free paper, medium weight paper. The drawings will be mirror images of each other and as close as possible to the image depicted below. They will be shipped, unframed and rolled in a large tube. Work includes a Certificate of Authenticity and Provenance signed by the artist. Artist will also deliver all preparatory sketches. All artwork will be signed and dated in pencil recto on front and verso.  
Total artwork cost: $ USD
Shipping (via FedEx): $75
* Gallery: 25%
* Consultant: 25%
* F. Lennox Campello: 50%
Approval: Work will commence once approval to proceed is given via email. Approval to proceed is understood to mean that both have parties agreed on size, composition, substrate, cost, and commissions. 

Payment: Artist is acting on good faith and requires no advance deposit. Full payment is due upon completion of the work (estimate is no later than December 25, 2016 provided that approval to proceed is given by December 5, 2016). Payment via check is preferred in order to save bank charges. Artwork will be shipped immediately after receipt of payment and clearance of payment by bank.
The proposal is briefed to her clients and accepted. I then send her a sketch of the commission as I understand it, but I have the orientation of the works wrong and it needs correction – at the end she sends me a rough sketch:

It matches my last proposal drawing, so we are set to go.

I get started on the first drawing, and as soon as it is done, I take a photo of it and email it to her so that she can see it immediately.

Lesson Three to artists: Keep communicating at all times so that there are no surprises.

I finish the second drawing, which is a friggin’ bear, since it has to be a mirror match for the first one, and because of the huge size of the paper, not easy to deal with… but then it is finished.

I send her an image of the second one, and all is good.

Then I ask for more data, and send her a note:

Question: I always sign the work both on the back and the front.... some people (as long as it is signed somewhere) prefer not to have a signature on the front of these minimalist pieces.... I'm OK with either... you may want to ask your clients if they want the front all clear (no siggie) or if it's OK if it is signed and dated on the front as well.

She asks, and they’re good with both signatures. Do you see the importance of good communications?

I am now ready to ship, but being the good Virgo that I am, I worry about her framer, so I take the time to draft and email her this:

I'm sure that you use a great framer who knows all of this ahead of time... but I'm sending this from the bottom of my heart and speaking from experience:
1. The drawings are on pH-balanced, acid free, cotton paper - please only use conservation materials in framing.
2. Drawings are signed both on front and back - if any trimming is needed, please be aware of signatures - space has been left to accommodate the desired final size. The paper needs to be trimmed for the correct width - trim from the edge opposite the leaping figure and from bottom as needed. The drawings have also been fingerprint-signed on the verso.
3. Because of the size of the paper, it needs to be relaxed before framing - this is done by unrolling paper from shipping box and laying on top of a table long enough to accommodate the length of the paper. Warning: If the paper rolls on too-short a table when opened, it can be damaged if it "bends" over the edge of the table - this may cause crescents on the paper - if this happens, they can be removed by dampening the back of the area where the crescent occurred and laying to dry on a table long enough to accommodate the paper. It is very important that the framer knows ahead of time that artwork should only be unrolled on a long table that can accommodate the length!
4. If clients require "float framing", recommend 1/4 white conservation spacers, but of course, whatever size they end up framing to, the drawing must not be allowed to touch the glass... use either spacers of 8-ply museum mat board.
Payment is ready to be processed, but speaking from experience, I advise her to call her credit card company and warn it that an online charge for the agreed amount is about to take place from the gallery. This saves time, as if a significant amount(as this is) shows up froma DMV source for a Chicago credit card, chances are that it won’t happen.
I then pack the work myself, ensuring than nothing short of a small nuke can damage the work. As soon as it is shipped, I email the tracking number to the consultant.

Next: What happens next!

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