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I made a sale 8 months ago of a piece of art. Now the client wants to return it, do I have to return my commission?

New York, NY |

I sell art in New York city. Last year I made a sale to a client who now (8 months later) wants to return it due to not being able to appraise it for the price she paid. My boss the owner of the business is fighting it and doesn't want to return it. But now he threatened me and said that if he has to reverse the sale, that I have to return my commission. Is this legal?

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Attorney answers 2


More facts are needed at the sale level first. Was there a bill of sale and, if so, what were its terms? Did it say that all sales were final? Did you make any representations about the value of the work? If there was no bill of sale, you may have to rely on industry standards about final sales and warranties, and those may help you here. Usually, art is not sold with any warranty about appraising at an equal or higher amount.

Next, if your boss does return the money, then we need to know the terms of your commission agreement with your boss. Did those terms make you responsible for returning a commission (arguably earned at the time of the sale) for returned goods? I doubt that either the terms or common practice would force you to do that. However, if you are still concerned, get an attorney familiar with art sales to help you out.


Depends on (a) the terms of the contract for the sale of the artwork; and, (b) the terms of your employment agreement or commission agreement with your employer (which in NY State needs to be in writing).

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thank you! :)

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