Artists and arts organisation have professional relationships with each other for a variety of reasons. More often than not, it's between an artist and a gallery of some description: artist-run-initiative, commerical gallery, regional, state or national public gallery, private hire-space gallery or a cafe that wants to show artworks.
In having that relationship with the gallery (or other organisation, like a local council or private commissioner), both of you will negotiate what you want out of the project/exhibition/ commission and, if we've taught anyone anything, will have a contract that outlines the terms of that agreement.
But sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes artists get ripped off by galleries, sometimes galleries get ripped off by artists, sometimes neither party has communicated well and you both end up feeling ripped off.
In fixing this kind of conflict, there are several things you can do:
1. Cry, scream, throw things at the wall and decide that the visual arts is a waste of time and you're off to become an accountant. We don't recommend this option (nothing against accountants).
2. Try to resolve the situation. Keep correspondence in writing and although you may feel passionately about the situation, try to remain courteous and professional. If you reach a solution, confim your understanding of the outcome in writing and ask that the other side do the same.
3. Come to NAVA for help. At the end of the day, if the situation has wider implications for the sector, we may even be able to back you up, write a letter to the other party, or take further action. However, until that happens, there are other means of resolution which we can help you with:
Research resources. Make sure you've read through the contract and any correspondence you've had between the two of you and ensure that you understand the nature of the problem. Consult the Code of Practice for the Australian Visual Arts and Craft Sector. Following the guidelines therein will prevent further disputes and may support your case, should it come to further action. The Code of Practice is available for purchase from NAVA and is a valuable resource to all Australian professional artists and arts workers. If you haven't already got it and can't afford it, most art school libraries have it and if your local library doesn't, ask them to order it.
Ask for advice. If you haven't been able to resolve the dispute after all this work, or found an answer in the Code of Practice or sections of the Advice Centre, you can email us for our expert advice through this site. You can also give us a call at our Sydney office for an answer to a specific question.
Send us the details. The NAVA staff will let you know if your particular problem is unable to be solved through the above means and may need further research/consideration. We will encourage you to outline the situation in writing, with details about who is involved, when it happened and what you would like to see as an outcome of it all.
And then what happens?
If NAVA needs to act on the situation, there is a procedure we need to go through. For more information about this procedure and more detailed outline of the dispute representation process, go to the membership section of this website, which is featuring this members' benefit.
We all hope that no one has to go through this kind of conflict in their professional dealings as artists and arts workers. However, if you do, we hope that this kind of information helps to keep everyone communicating and relatively sane.