by Rita Job
In this day and age, documenting the sale of your artwork is extremely important. Every sale requires at least two pieces of paperwork to make sure that everything is recorded properly for your own records, the buyer, and tax purposes. If you’re working with a gallery, most of the important documentation will be taken care of by the gallery staff, but if you’re navigating the waters of artwork sales on your own, you need to be able to create an Artist Bill of Sale and a Certificate of Authenticity. As a bonus, you can also include a press packet for your collectors’ records.
Artist’s Bill of Sale
What is an Artist’s Bill of Sale?
This is one of your most important documents. Basically an invoice, an Artist Bill of Sale acts as a record of transaction between you and the buyer and should include information about the artwork, the parties involved, and services provided. Country, state, and local requirements for invoices do vary, so be certain to check with your local government to make sure you’re providing the required information.
One important requirement to definitely check on is the sales tax. What is the tax rate for artwork in your state or city? Who’s responsible for paying, the artist or the buyer? Are there any exemptions? These questions are very important and you, as an artist, need to understand your responsibilities for collecting and paying taxes.
Regardless of the local requirements that might exist, the basic outline of the Artist’s Bill of Sale will be same no matter where you are and should include the following:
1. Date of sale and invoice number
Invoice numbers can be used as a unique reference ID and will prove very helpful should you need to quickly find the documentation later.
2. Artist’s contact information
Include your full name and, at least, an address. It might also be helpful to provide your telephone number or an email, to make contacting you in the future convenient and fast.
3. Buyer’s contact information
List the same contact information for your buyers as you have for yourself, making sure that the buyer’s address is their Shipping address since this is where the taxes come into play. Don’t forget to add the buyer to your mailing list, if they’re not already on it.
4. Artwork sold
This is the field where the price of the artwork should be listed. Each artwork should be recorded separately and never grouped as one transaction. You should also include the description of your artwork, such as the title, dimensions, and medium.
That’s the total cost of the work before taxes. Subtotal is the field where you can make notes regarding any other fees in addition to the price of the artwork itself. For example, if someone has asked to purchase the artwork without the included frame or with a different frame, you might include any discounts or additional costs.
Since tax rates vary between regions and types of transaction, be sure to look up rates that apply to artwork sales in your area.
7. Other charges
Do buyers want your artwork delivered? Are they purchasing a frame or an encasing from you as well? Will you be commissioned to visit their residence or place of business to hang or advise on the placement of the artwork? One-off charges like that do come up and should be listed separately.
The sums from the Subtotal, Taxes, and Other Charges categories will go into this field.
Other things to include in your Artist Bill of Sale. Definitely include a line about the Copyright and Reproduction rights. Doing so will inform your collector that you have the ownership of both and that you know how to protect it. Signature lines are also useful. Having both parties sign the Bill of Sale indicates the understanding between the two of you and acts not only as another lever of protection for the artist, but also as a “closure” of the deal for the collector.
When it comes to formatting, be as creative as you wish. For a collector, even looking at a unique and beautiful Artist’s Bill of Sale can bring memories and raise positive emotions associated with the purchase.
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Certificate of Authenticity
What is a Certificate of Authenticity?
The Certificate of Authenticity is another essential document that should accompany every artwork you finish. Just as it sounds, it’s a document that certifies that the sold artwork is an authentic creation by the artist that signed it.
Why do you need a Certificate of Authenticity?
Let’s say that five years from now you are an incredibly well-known artist and your works are selling for big money. Art collectors who have purchased your earlier works may want to sell it to a museum or other major institution, but how would they prove that this is your work? This is where the Certificate of Authenticity comes in very handy. Furthermore, this important paper can also be used for valuing an estate, for insurance purposes, and for other legal matters surrounding your artwork.
It’s good to have a certificate made for each work you finish, so that you can be ready to sell it as soon as the paint dries, especially if you already have a buyer lined up. You can either make a certificate for each piece you’re working on and store them in your records, or you can make a general template and create and modify them as needed. It can over-complicate matters if you’ve sold the work but don’t have a certificate ready immediately.
What to include in a Certificate of Authenticity
A high-quality Certificate of Authenticity contains information about the artwork, a line or paragraph certifying its authenticity, the artist’s name and signature, and the date. It’s also very important to note that this certificate is not a transfer or release of copyright.
1. Artwork information
Include here the title of artwork, artist’s name, dimensions, medium, and the year created. If you’re really feeling ambitious, add where the work was created as well.
2. Special instructions
If you have special hanging or display instructions, you can include this on the certificate. This is especially wise if your works are made up of materials more prone to degrading in certain circumstances, such as glow-in-the-dark paint.
3. Artwork image
You’ll want to attach a high-resolution image of the artwork itself for extra security and convenience.
Remember, Certificates of Authenticity provide not only valuable information about the artwork itself, they also bestow reassurance about its legitimacy on the collectors. It’s the document that art collectors hold on to and use as proof of genuineness and originality in case of a sale.
Press Information and Personal Texts
If you’ve ever been written about in the press, collectors would often love to have this information. You can also include your artist statement and personal biography. You should have these materials already. You can either print them out or send them as a PDF.
By including an Artist’s Bill of Sale (or invoice) and a Certificate of Authenticity, you separate yourself as a professional artist and add that extra level of legitimacy to your work.
Looking to enhance your career and build a presence in New York? Submit your portfolio to us and get the opportunity to present your work to a broad range of national and international art collectors and buyers. Visit our Gallery Representation And Artist Promotion page for more information.
Share with us in the comments what else you like to include in your sales paperwork!