The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement (1971)
THE ARTIST’S RESERVED RIGHTS TRANSFER AGREEMENT was written in March 1971 by myself and lawyer Bob Projansky, after my extensive discussions with artists and other people involved with the day-to-day operation of the international art world.
Since then, the Contract has been translated and distributed into German, French and Italian, in addition to the original English. At present plans are underway for translation and distribution into Dutch, Flemish and Spanish.
Slowly, more and more artists have begun using the Contract, either regularly or occasionally, as they see fit. Because the use of the contract is the private concern of each artist, public records about which artists have been using it are impossible to compile. Among the artists who are known to have used the Contract are: Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Mel Bochner, Hans Haacke, Sol Le Witt and Mario Merz.
The contract is proposed as a practical remedy to some of the long standing inequities in the art world. It is not conceived as a solution for all of the artist’s political, social and economic problems, whether in the art world or the real world.
The Contract simply gives artists the basic minimum rights and protections that now belong only to the more organized artist-workers: musicians, filmworkers, photographer, actors, writers, and composers.
The attached 3-page Artist’s Contract defines and protects the artist after he (or she) gives, sells or trades their work. It distinguishes between the following “uses” and rights:
—the right to be notifies when and where the work is to be exhibited
—the right to borrow back the work for public exhibition for 2 months every 5 years
—the right to control all reproduction in the work
—the right to be consulted if repairs become necessary
—the right to recourse if the work is intentionally altered.
—the right to 15% of any increase in value each time the work is transferred in the future.
—the right to half of any rental income paid to the owner for use of the work at exhibitions (if there ever is any).
The Contract gives the artist the aesthetic controls for just his (or her) lifetime, and the economic benefits for his (or her) life, plus the life of a surviving spouse (if any), plus 21 years, so as to benefit the artist’s children as thy are growing up.
Because each work is covered by a separate contract, the possession of the contract also serves as a record of who owns each work at any given time, and as such, it is an important source of information for artists, critics, dealers, museums and the public.
For an original copy of the Contract, with complete information about its use, see the attached Contract-poster printed in documenta catalogue.
What we have done in drafting the Contract is formalize a few of the relationships that all artists and collectors are subject to, and have given the artists a legal tool they can use, if they want, to establish, their basic ongoing rights when they transfer their work.
It is a substitute for what has existed before—NOTHING.