Get it in Writing

Don’t get Harriete Estel Berman started on the subject of artists having contracts with the galleries that represent their work. The San Mateo, California sculptor doesn’t converse on the subject; she proselytizes. “In no other field than art do people regularly work without a written contract,” she said. “If I agree to work with a gallery and they don’t hand me a contract, then I provide them with mine, and we go from there. If they say no to a contract, end of story. I’ll work with some other gallery.” Continue reading

Protecting Artwork in the Event of a Disaster

If people chose where to live based on the likelihood of natural disasters, few would choose to settle the earthquake-prone West Coast or the hurricane-plagued Gulf Coast and Carolinas. However, California and Florida are the first and fourth most populous states, with tornado-alley Texas coming in second. Clearly, artists, art dealers and collectors are willing to take their chances with the environment, and the artworks they made, exhibit or own will have to suffer along.

Suffer, but not necessarily perish if a disaster strikes. There is a variety of precautions that homeowners may take to mitigate the potential for damage: Continue reading

When galleries close, artists’ lives and careers may suffer

“I have the reputation of being pretty loyal to my artists, regardless of whether they sell or not,” said Andrea Rosen, a Manhattan gallery owner who specializes in mid-career artists. Still, earlier this year, Rosen informed all the artists she represented, around a dozen, that she would no longer be their dealer, that her focus was shifting to representing the estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Dead men pay no rent, but the artists she was talking to did and, out of the blue, they found they had major decisions to make. Who is going to exhibit my work in New York? How do you approach a gallery? How much do I have in the bank? (How long can I go without another dealer?) Continue reading

Sales Tax for Artists

Artists may receive money in a variety of ways, including awards and prizes at shows, project grants, scholarships and fellowships. The prize money or the monetary value of an award (the cash value of a gift certificate, for instance) that an artist receives at a show is taxable at normal state and federal rates. The same taxability is true for money received through project grants from a private or governmental agency. On the other hand, there is no tax on fellowships and scholarships if the artist is studying for a degree at an educational institution (including tuition, lodging, equipment and travel expenses), nor is an award taxable if it comes from a governmental agency or school. If the award is contingent on the recipient teaching or offering demonstrations or some other part-time service, however, a portion of the fellowship or scholarship will be taxed. Continue reading

Freelance Isn’t Free

When asked their professions, painters and sculptors generally describe themselves as artists, omitting the fact that most of them do something else that actually pays the bills. It makes perfect sense. Using the shorthand of “artist” projects a sense of seriousness and dedication that otherwise might be lacking if they went into detail about chasing sheetrocking jobs and adjunct teaching here and there or whatever keeps a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. Still, hunting up paying jobs or shorter-term “gigs” is a well-understood facet of their lives and careers as is, sometimes, the pursuit of payment after the work is done. Payment can be the larger challenge. Continue reading

Artist Foundations

Many successful people have time to plan their legacies, but the last months of Nancy Graves’ life were hectic. In May of 1995, the 55 year-old sculptor was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and five months later she was dead. With no heirs, she had to decide quickly what to do with her belongings and wealth. Like a number of other artists with significant holdings of artwork and other assets, she created a nonprofit foundation through her will to shelter her estate from high death taxes. Continue reading