Protecting Yourself When Consigning Artwork: A Q&A With Tad Crawford by John A. Parks

I recently received a frantic telephone call from a representative of a gallery that I’ve been working with for more than 30 years. An ugly legal dispute had broken out among the family who owns the gallery, and a legal executor for the deceased former owner was threatening to remove all works unless it could be proven that they were on consignment. I suddenly had to provide written proof of consignment agreements or lose the artworks.
For many years we had done business on a handshake; paperwork was rare or non-existent. I couldn’t believe that people with whom I had done business for so long and whom I regarded as friends could be putting me through this. Fortunately, in this case, I had somehow had enough sense to write up a consignment list for the paintings in question and asked the receptionist to sign it when I delivered the work. This turned out to be enough to recover my paintings, but I was lucky. As artists, we often give an art dealer possession of artworks and must then rely on him or her for their safekeeping, their sale at an appropriate price, and the remittance of payment—and the dealer offers no pledge as security. What then, can an artist do to protect himself or herself in such transactions? I recently spoke with Tad Crawford, an expert on the legal rights of artists, to find out.

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