Why Invoices Are Essential When Buying Art

Just like with any high-value purchase, you will receive an invoice when you buy art from a gallery. The invoice acts as your lasting record of the sale, demonstrating your ownership of the work, its authenticity, and its monetary value.

You should always save this document for future reference, especially if you would like to purchase artwork insurance, report on your assets, or resell, donate, or gift the piece later on. Here’s what you need to know.

What Should Be on Your Invoice?

The invoice should list important information about the sale, including details about the artwork, the buyer, and the seller. On a standard invoice, you can expect to find:

  • The artist’s name
  • The artwork’s title, date, materials, dimensions, and edition information if applicable
  • The artwork’s price, including retail price and discounted price if applicable
  • The associated sales costs (e.g. taxes or shipping)
  • The gallery’s name and address
  • The buyer’s name and address
  • The date of the invoice
  • The method of payment, including the details of a payment plan if applicable
  • The status of the invoice (e.g. paid or unpaid)

When Should You Get the Invoice?

Once you are committed to buying an artwork, you can ask the gallery for a preliminary or pro forma invoice.

The pro forma invoice contains the same information as the final invoice, except that it is marked as “unpaid.” This document enables you to review any additional costs, as well as double check the artwork’s medium, title, date, and dimensions, before charging your card. You can always ask for changes if you spot any missing or inaccurate information.

After you pay for the artwork, the gallery will send you a final version of the invoice, which should be marked as “paid.” It is best to get a digital copy of the invoice, as these are easier to keep on file. Galleries most commonly send invoices as PDFs, though some will also ship the physical document with the artwork.

Are There Any Exceptions?

No—you should always get an invoice when buying art from a gallery. This paperwork is what makes the artwork yours.

If you have any questions along the way, you can contact our team of specialists at inquiries@artsy.net.