Art in the Age of Contractual Negotiation

Art in the Age of Contractual Negotiation

Artists have always loved to hate the art market. They want to sell their work, but only on their own terms. Unfortunately, they usually lack the means to explain what they want and why they want it. But in 1971, two associates of a self-styled “Art Workers Coalition,” Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, created the “Artist’s Contract,” a form agreement designed to explain what artists want and help them get it. Unsurprisingly, as a practical matter, the Artist’s Contract was not very successful. Few artists actually used it, and fewer still have tried to enforce it.
We argue that to focus too narrowly on enforcement of the Artist’s Contract is to miss its point. Its purpose was not to create a formal contractual relationship but to describe and reshape the social and legal relationships that constitute the art market. This Article traces the social history of the Artist’s Contract, and its afterlife. We argue that, understood contextually, the Artist’s Contract reflects an attempt to (re)shape the “legal consciousness” of the art world. The contract was a legal form intended as a tool of social change, intended to catalyze a new, shared understanding among artists and collectors as to their mutual obligations and expectations. Its effectiveness has therefore to be weighed against metrics other than enforceability.

Christopher G. Bradley and Brian L. Frye

Kentucky Law Journal

June 19, 2019

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By |2019-08-26T08:26:49-07:00January 1st, 2018|Copyright, Intellectual Property, Political Economy, Reference|