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Best Practices Guide for Emerging Artists




Tappan is proud to share our Best Practices Guide for Emerging Artists. This compilation has been created specifically for Tappan artists to serve as a guide to reference regarding studio business, professional partnerships, and what is expected from artists and entities. Please reference this guide - it is for you!

Best Practices Guide for Emerging Artists was created in collaboration with TAP/LA, an independent non-profit dedicated to serving emerging artists through education, funding and a network of local resources. 

This guide has been written and compiled by Heather Darcy Bhandari, the co-author of Art/Work, with adaptations from her book pertinent to cultivating successful careers as artists.



S T U D I O   B U S I N E S S


A dedicated studio practice opens up possibilities for new work and its dissemination into the world. The more limited the studio time, the more limited the opportunities. Artists should make sure they have a scheduled practice to get the most out of their potential.


Unfortunately, more people will see digital images than the work itself! Artists need to take high quality images (300 dpi, at least 8x10 inches) of all their work. Installation shots and details are as important as full images.

If the process is interesting, it should be documented. If help is needed to make sure the images represent the work well, a professional photographer should be enlisted.



An up-to-date resume including contact info, education, solo and group exhibitions, awards, and any press is an artist’s responsibility. Performances, screenings, self-published materials, and anything else pertinent to the artist’s career should be included. Statements should be short, sweet, and on-hand for distribution. Readers want to know what and why in plain, personal language.



Title, date, media, size, edition number, duration, location, and the price of every work should be recorded, along with any information regarding a sale and/or consignment. A simple spreadsheet or fancy inventory software will work. Artists should not rely on anyone else to keep their inventory.


This includes clearly organizing and properly naming your image files. Ensuring that you can easily follow your inventory spreadsheet and locate the corresponding images is important.



It is in an artist’s best interest to keep all receipts for reimbursement, pricing, and taxes.

Pricing is never based solely on expenses and time, but it helps the artist and gallery know exactly how much money went into the making of a work before it is priced.



Price is dependent on the artist’s resume and sales record. Materials, size, and labor, and the current market are all taken into consideration. Therefore, works by artists at the same stages in their careers will be priced similarly.

Lowering prices is very difficult to do, so a slow and steady increase is advised because it is the most sustainable.


Signing Work

Artists must sign work to prove authenticity. If there is truly nowhere to sign the piece (it is on transparent material, for instance), then an artist needs to provide a certificate of authenticity.


G A L L E R Y / A R T I S T   P A R T N E R S H I P S

The best galleries are strong support systems for artists. The easiest artists to work with are those dedicated to the studio and professional when it comes to business. Open communication is required. Both sides should acknowledge they are peers and colleagues and keep each other updated on plans, opportunities, concerns, and ideas. The gallery can best help support an artist if they understand the artist’s goals.

Consignment Forms

These documents are executed so that everyone is on the same page. Literally. The purpose is to minimize, if not eliminate, misunderstandings and assumptions.


Sharing Collector Info

Galleries are the middlemen between artists and collectors, relieving responsibilities associated with sales, negotiations, and payment. When artists are represented, galleries reach out to new collectors and institutions, but they also expect artists to share collector lists so they may inform them of new bodies of work, coordinate commissions, and be available for conversations regarding the practical issues associated with owning art. Artists should feel comfortable with their gallery communicating on their behalf with collectors, press, institutions, art consultants, etc. If the artist does not trust the gallery (or the gallery cannot trust the artist to make them aware of all past and potential sales), then representation should be reconsidered. A two-way, trusting relationship is paramount.



Often galleries take 50% of sales (after production cost). Artists make the work and galleries pay hefty overhead, as well as promote the artists through various print and/or digital media.  In the best artist/gallery relationships, the two parties work as a team for mutual benefit. Once a collector pays, the artist should be paid within 30 days.



Discounts are very common, and artists should not be offended if a discount is extended by the gallery.  Galleries have to offer discounts to art consultants, repeat collectors, those buying more than one piece, institutions, etc. If an artist is expected to share in a discount, the terms should be outlined in the consignment form so both parties have accurate expectations.



A few galleries want worldwide exclusivity, meaning they are the only ones who can show and sell an artist’s work across the globe. Any sales, consignments, loans, and commissions need to go through them. More common is regional exclusivity. For example, an artist may be represented by a gallery on the West Coast, or California, or Southern California. The wider the gallery’s network, the farther the exclusivity will reach. This is oftentimes negotiable. And it is common for an artist to have representation in multiple regions around the world. If an artist is represented by more than one entity, the studio is in charge of deciding who gets what and making sure there is communication among all the parties. If an artist is represented by one entity, everything goes through that gallery.


Who has copyright on an artist’s work?

Artists get copyright on their work the moment the work is finished (fixed). Even when a collector buys a work or a gallery has it in its possession, the artist retains copyright. Others can use the image if the artist grants permission through a license (artists still retain copyright even when someone else is licensed), or if the artist assigns the right to another entity entirely. To learn more about all the copyright options, visit


Who has copyright on an artist’s work?

Artists get copyright on their work the moment the work is finished (fixed). Even when a collector buys a work or a gallery has it in its possession, the artist retains copyright. Others can use the image if the artist grants permission through a license (artists still retain copyright even when someone else is licensed), or if the artist assigns the right to another entity entirely. To learn more about all the copyright options, visit


A business wants to partner with an artist. That’s good,  right?

Corporations, retail outlets, advertising firms, product designers, etc. are known to partner with artists on projects. Some opportunities are a great fit, while others have the potential to redefine the reading of a work (or an entire practice!) long after the project ends. Studio time may also be entirely diverted to the project for a long period. This could be positive or negative. Artists need to be thoughtful and choose partnerships wisely.


F R E Q U E N T L Y    A S K E D    Q U E S T I O N S


The work left the studio. The artist’s job is done, right?

An artist should be prepared to do a lot after the work leaves the studio. Especially in the early stages of a gallery relationship, packing, shipping, and installation may be a shared experience.

An artist should also be prepared to do nothing once the work leaves the studio. Even in the early stages of a gallery relationship, some galleries want full control of the work outside the studio.

With all these contradictions (and more), artists and galleries must communicate often. If the details of a relationship are not spelled out in a consignment form, or the questions are too specific to have been included in a contract, an artist should reach out and ask the questions that need asking. The gallery is rarely withholding information on purpose—they assume the artist understands the way they work.


Common when represented

Artists pack the work to get to the gallery.

Galleries general cover shipping costs unless otherwise discussed; galleries cover insurance; galleries install straightforward work; artists install site-specific work. There are MANY other details to be covered—from who pays what to what next—and all questions should be asked weeks or months in advance, not day of!

Once the work is in the space, or a show is around the corner, a lot of wheels are already in motion, budgets are set, and changing course is hard to do.