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I wonder about legality of art gallery 6 month no-sale clause in contract.

Concord, CA |

I participated in a group show in a small art gallery in Connecticut. It was a one-time thing and I have no further doings with the gallery. Their contract had boilerplate saying artists could not sell any work that was in the show (including prints of the work) for 6 mos. after the show. Being new at this, when I signed, I thought the clause must mean the gallery would hang onto and sell the work for 6 months. But, they returned all non-sold work to the artists right after the show. This no-sale clause is one-sided. Can they come after me if I tried sell the work online and they found out? I have no further business with them as I said, and they treated the artists poorly.

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

This could be considered a non-compete clause under California law. Such clauses are not enforceable in California. They are enforceable in Connecticut (I've had this issue come up relative to California and Connecticut before). As I haven't read your contract, I can't answer definitively, but, assuming this is a non-compete, even if you are sued in Connecticut, and a Connecticut judgment is obtained against you if you do sell any art in the next 6 months, a California court will not enforce it. One way to help your case is to only sell art in California for the next 6 months. Realistically, though, it is unlikely the gallery is monitoring your sales, or would have any way of doing so.

Asker

Posted

Thanks! Very interesting.

Posted

The gallery established this clause to prevent people who see the work in the gallery from contacting the artist directly to purchase a work. The clauses are common. If you were to sell a work that was in the gallery, and the gallery found out, they could argue that they are entitled to the commission they would have received. It seems unlikely, however, that they would incur the time or the expense to do so.

If you'd like to discuss, please feel free to call. Jeff Gold Gold, Benes, LLP 1854 Bellmore Ave Bellmore, NY 11710 Telephone -516.512.6333 Email - Jgold@goldbenes.com

Asker

Posted

Thanks for your answers everyone. Yes I doubt they would ever know or bother to search online. The contract just said we could not sell the work, not that they want a commission if we do. If the worst they would do is demand a commission, I'd just give it to them I guess. They didn't bar us from displaying the work elsewhere, so many of the artists had the work on their own sites or portfolio sites during the show. Takes away from the idea that a buyer must have seen the work at the gallery. The gallery had little online sales strategy and no catalogue. It mainly aimed at a local group, which is fine, but if we sell the art online it is unlikely that the gallery would deserve any credit for that. Even if the clause is common, I think the Internet renders its reasoning obsolete. Thanks again!

Posted

It might be an enforceable clause. It may depend on what law applies, California or Connecticut.
Such clauses are not uncommon. You often see them with real estate listings.
Probably, the provision does not prevent you from selling the artwork, it most likely provides that the gallery is entitled to a commission on any sales of the artwork they showed.
If you are really concerned, take the agreement to a local attorney.

Asker

Posted

Thank you!