Regularly Asked Questions Visual Artists Ireland

By: The Sculptors' Society Of Ireland  05/12/2011
Keywords: artists, Visual Artists

Regularly Asked Questions Visual Artists Ireland

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:02 pm

Our help desk have a number of questions that are constantly asked by our members.  In this section we outline our advice under the following headings.



Tax & Self-Employment



Pricing & Costings




Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:14 pm

Visual Artists Ireland recommends the insurance brokers O’Driscoll O’Neil to artists in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Several agencies offer different forms of insurance, however we recommend that you speak to an expert who is fully aware of the artists’ needs.

O’Driscoll O’Neil can provide insurance cover to protect your art practice. Insurance covered includes, public liability, goods in transit, employers liability, equipment, property damage and more.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:12 pm

It is considered best practice for the commissioner to lay out details of ownership and copyright in the original commission brief or in the artists’ contract. I would advise you to review the original commission brief and your contract to see if these issues were addressed. If these issues were not addressed and you have not assigned your copyright to the commissioner then the copyright remains with you. Assigning rights mean someone else becomes the owner of the copyright as well as the work. Visual Artists Ireland recommends that artists never assign their copyright to anybody.

When it comes to commissioning the issue of ownership is a bit of a grey area especially if there is no agreement in place. When a commissioner commissions a piece of work for a specific purpose there is an implied contract that the commissioner will own the work (though not the copyright – again unless you assigned it to them). With no agreement, the issue of ownership is open to interpretation. Thus, artists are advised to spell out their position concerning ownership when the terms of the commission are agreed.

When a commissioner commissions a piece of work then they have the right to reproduce the work in a variety of ways – for example using an image of the work for promotional purposes, on a website or in brochures. This should be stated in a contract or in the commission brief. If it is not, then it is implied that the commission can use the commissioned work in a number of ways.

As part of your copyright, you have moral rights, one of which is the right to paternity. So if the commissioner uses the work in a publication or on a website, you have the right to be identified as the creator of the work in the publication or on the website. The commissioner is the only party entitled to publish the work. If another party wishes to publish the work, they need your permission because you are the copyright owner.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:11 pm

Unless you assigned your copyright to somebody else then you own the copyright. Assigning rights mean someone else becomes the owner of the copyright as well as the work. Visual Artists Ireland recommends that artists never assign their copyright to anybody. If you are the copyright owner then you have the right to use the work as you wish.

In this case, you should license your copyright to the person who wants to use your image on an album cover. Licensing means that another person can use the copyright material. There are a few ways of licensing copyright:

An exclusive license is a license, which is in writing and signed by you the copyright owner. Under an exclusive license, the licensee is the only person who can use the work in the way covered by the license. It is common in book publishing agreements, for example, for a writer to grant the publisher an exclusive license to print and publish the writer’s book. The writer is not then entitled to license another publisher to publish the same book during the period of the license.

Non-exclusive License: If you grant a non-exclusive license to do something with your work, you may continue to use your work in that way and you can also grant other people non-exclusive licenses to use your work in that way. You should negotiate and agree on the terms and conditions of the license. Discuss where the image will be used. Will it be used on the album cover exclusively or will it be used on flyers, brochures and websites for example. It is also important to state where the album will be distributed (locally or internationally) and the number of copies made. These are issues you need to discuss, agree on, put down in writing and have signed by both parties.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:11 pm

There is no going rate for this type of work as such. Many artists focus on finding the right price for their work but this cannot be done in the absence of knowing how much it costs to make the work. A number of variables – such as your time, your profile and your expenses – need to be considered before you can come up with a fee or a price. Where the card is distributed and the number of copies made will also play a factor in the price you charge. For example, if your artwork is going to be used by a global multinational, your fee would be much higher than if it is to be used by a local community enterprise.

Another important thing to consider is drawing up a contract with the commissioner. You will need to give the commissioner a license to reproduce your artwork. Solicitor Linda Scales has written a text on Contracts tailored for artists. In it, she explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. She also provides sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork. You can view the text on Contracts here: See:

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:10 pm

There are very few, if any, agents in Ireland. It is more a case that galleries (commercial) act as agents on behalf of artists. To be represented by a gallery is not an easy task. Most commercial galleries do not like to receive unsolicited proposals. Generally speaking, it is the commercial gallery that approaches the artist with a view to representing them.

Also, VAI runs workshops during the year the assist artists in presenting their work and practice.  These are advertised through our eBulletin and in the Professional Development pages of our website.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:08 pm

Of course, this rarely yields immediate results but the important thing is to make sure you are on their radar – that they know your name, a little bit about your work, and when you are showing. There are only a small number of writers and critic in Ireland but there are hundreds of shows around the country each week. Critics cannot possibly see everything so it really is up to you the artist to ensure that writers and critics are at least aware of what you are up to.

It is advisable to learn the art of writing press releases (if you are not represented by a gallery who will do this for you). The information you provide in the press release should be factual and clear, and have some sort of edge that will attract critics and press to the show.

To develop a good contact list you should research all the major art publications, writers, press officers, gallerists, journalists etc in the country and get their personal contact details.

Here you will find contact details for all the galleries, arts organisations, media and promotional tools and also a list of Irish and International art publications.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:05 pm

It is impossible to provide a detailed answer to this question as the issue is too subjective. However, Visual Artists lreland has commissioned Gaby Smyth and Co Accountants to prepare a guide on Tax, PRSI and Social Insurance benefits for self-employed artists.

Submitted on August 29, 2011 – 3:03 pm

It is a very good idea to have a contract between you and the gallery, agreed at the planning stage, which lays out the terms and conditions of the preparation, exhibition and uninstalling period. This document should provide you with a framework that will keep any potential problems to a minimum.

The gallery will probably provide a document detailing a standard set of terms, which will be tailored to suit your individual circumstances. You will be asked to confirm acceptance of the terms. Some of the most important items to be addressed include:

• The duration and dates of the exhibition.
• The number of works to be exhibited, with a description
• The party responsible for transit arrangements, and insurance while in transit.
• Responsibility for hanging, and any special requirements of the artist.
• The terms of sale of the works, or other remuneration for the artist, with date of payment by the gallery.
• Gallery commission
• Arrangements for opening reception, including publicity.
• Insurance of works by the Gallery for the duration of the exhibition.
• Security and invigilation arrangements.
• Procedure in case of damage to work.

When presented with a set of standard terms by a gallery, you may find that not all matters are covered, or that some are not applicable. It is vital that any issues arising should be settled by negotiation as early as possible, confirmed in writing and added to the agreement.

Keywords: artists, Visual Artists

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