An online article in Forbes (first printed in The Art Newspaper) reveals just how shady the art market can be. Quotes of note:
"There’s a lot more money in this business than there used to be, and yet we’re less regulated than used car dealers."
"In my experience, people coming from the
finance world into the art market tend to be shocked by the level of
opacity and murkiness."
It seems as though everyone–artists, curators, dealers, and collectors–have been complicit in creating the current environment. And it would be incredibly difficult for all to agree on some sort of self-regulation. It seems like it would take a major catastrophe (on the scale of the auction house scandal or, better yet, the attention of NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer) to shake things up.
Artists are usually most grateful that their work has sold. In so many cases, they have agreed to a confidentiality clause with their galleries and have no idea where their work goes or even how much it sells for.
1) Get everything in writing with your gallery dealer (consignor).
2) Give your dealer the price (the retail price) at which a work should be sold. This ensures you have control over the cost and that your work is being sold at the same price regardless of where it is.
3) Stay on top of your dealer. Make monthly calls to ask about sales and payment.
4) Have confidentiality clauses removed from your contract. You deserve to know who purchases your work. Imagine all of those records being lost in the future. You’re at mid-career and you have to start over again because you have no record of sales. Most confidentiality agreements exist because dealers fear artists will contact their clients directly to sell work at a lower price. A healthy, trusting relationship with your gallery dealers will put their minds at ease.