I recently had this discussion with a client about how to structure a commission deal.
There are two main aspects of a commission that an artist should consider, the work and the money.
If an artist is represented by a gallery and the commission went thru the gallery then the gallery will negotiate the logistics. For working out the logistics and for setting up the deal, the gallery will take a percentage of the sales price. In a straight sale of artwork the gallery usually gets 50% but in a commission the standard percentage doesn’t always apply. Typically the more well-known the artist the less the gallery will take as a percentage. I typically see galleries taking 30% commissions depending on how much work they do to orchestrate everything.
If an artist is represented by a gallery and the commission came thru the artist and the gallery is not negotiating the deal on behalf of the artist, then the commission to the gallery is up in the air. You could give a 10% consideration commission to the gallery for representing you. But you may want to ask them to assist with the logistics for their cut. Obviously the more work they do for you, the more of a cut they should get. But if you feel that you earned this all on your own and the gallery did nothing to help you get the commission and are not going to help out in any way, then it’s your call.
If you are not represented by a gallery and you are doing it all on your own then it’s easy, right? Well, you may not have to split any of the proceeds but now all the logistics are on your shoulders. Drafting an agreement isn’t easy especially when you have to think of all possible factors: work schedule, deadlines, scope of project, artists responsibilities, collector/institution responsibilities, travel reimbursement, materials reimbursement, labor, structural engineering, timing of payments, artist fee and what happens in the event of the commission being canceled by either of the parties, etc. I suggest drafting an agreement that describes in detail each of these issues.
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