This isn’t the first time an artist has looked to contracts to create a more level playing field in the art world. Strada was inspired by the Siegelaub agreement—a contract drawn up in 1971 by gallerist (and later textile artist)
and lawyer Robert Projansky that entitles artists to certain rights over their work after it is sold. For example, by signing the Siegelaub document, collectors agreed to pay artists 15% of the appreciated value of the purchased artwork if they resell it later (what’s called an artist’s resale royalty).
his original contract, which has never been tested in court, as a “practical real-life, hands-on, easy-to-use, no-bullshit solution to a series of problems concerning artists’ control over their work.” In addition to helping address the economic imbalance between artist and collector, the contract also serves as something a piece of
itself. Attaching it to a sale makes an artistic statement as the legal document becomes inseparable from the artwork.
Strada came across the Siegelaub agreement, and began developing her own version, while enrolled in the Art & Law Program, a semester-long seminar run by lawyer Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento that explores the conceptual and tangible intersection of the two fields. Of the artists who have adopted the agreement, (who include
) some have tweaked it to address issues that mattered to them. Artist
, for instance, crafted a version that drops the resale royalty provision, but bars dealers from providing buyers of her work with the standard industry-wide 10% discount. Piper’s art is “already subject to the 50% Off Black Artist Discount and the 25% Off Women Artist Discount,” as the contract puts it.
“I was really excited by the idea that contracts could be a place to infuse my own political beliefs, feminist beliefs, and views of how the art market could potentially work,” Strada said.
Strada worked with Sarmiento off and on over the course of a year to draft the version that she unveiled on her website in late October. Like the Siegelaub contract, it’s a conceptual work in itself, highlighting the legal and other back office work that underpins and protects creative production. It includes a provision that the document itself must be displayed in some form next to her artwork when on view. The wording of the document leaves some creative flexibility: The display of the contract can be two or three dimensional, even performed live or “distributed in any manner” that Strada and the signee agree upon.
“Part of having the contract there is to remind people of all of the bureaucracy it took for that [artwork] to get there,” Strada said.