Billing & Collection
It is very important that you keep track of all the sales of your work and not rely on a gallery or other dealer to do this for you. Galleries go out of business, lose records, and sometimes even try to deny payment to artists. Whether it’s intentional or accidental, both dealers and artists can ruin working relationships and hurt business if proper billing and collection protocols are not followed. Having accurate records for each sale will help you to collect payments, arrange accurate tax records, and generally insure that you are paid for your work.
Make sure to create a bill of sale for each commercial transaction, as well as for barters and trades. You can create this using the forms in the back of this manual. You can also use our GYST software or a separate form-building program to generate a contract for more complicated transactions.
A bill of sale should include:
Title of artwork
Buyer information (including address, phone number, and email)
Price of the work
Terms of payment
It is not required, but you might also want to include a printout from your artist software on the piece you are selling, as well as an image of the work.
If the work is part of an edition, you should include a Certificate of Authenticity.
An artwork’s provenance—the history of where it has been shown and in which collections it has been included—is crucial for your records, and is often referenced in monographs. Being disorganized means more work for curators down the road. (Imagine having a retrospective without knowing where your art is located!) Labeling the back of the work and drafting letters of authenticity may facilitate such record keeping and is good for posterity.
If you make special payment plans for certain individuals, make sure to include the payment plan and calendar of due dates in the bill of sale. You should always retain the work until the final payment is made.
Always maintain an inventory of the work you have on consignment with a dealer, a gallery, or an art consultant. Keeping track of where all of your work is currently on consignment will aid in a quick payment process in the fortunate event of a sale.
If you work with a gallery make sure to get a list of works that have sold, including buyers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails. You might want to request that the gallery provide you this list for each fiscal quarter. While some galleries don’t want to give you this information, it is illegal for them to withhold it according to the Visual Artists Rights Act. Your contract with the gallery should include this agreement along with a set calendar of when you will receive said information.
However, it is important to understand why galleries might not want you to have this information. One main reason is that galleries do not want artists and collectors to make sales without their involvement. Although this is a reasonable concern, a mutually-established trust and positive working relationship with your dealer should quell any of these fears. Although you have a right to this sales information, it is your ethical responsibility to conduct yourself in a business-like manner. This means if you are represented by a dealer, you cannot and should not contact your gallery’s collectors directly to make “undocumented” sales.
Make sure you, your dealer, and your collectors know about the VARA act and any state Resale Royalty Acts when they acquire work. (See Legal section.)
You can also get our popular book for artists which includes all of this information and more here.