The Beginnings of an Art Collection

– Posted in: business, paintings
sunset landscape painting

Recently, I went to a party for artists given by an art collector. The house was unbelievable in the amount of artwork on display. It was almost floor to ceiling with paintings and sculpture. Several of my friends were represented in the collection, both sculptors and painters, along with Mian Situ and Paul Strisik. The collector said to me, “I don’t have one of yours, but I need to get one.” Then he said, “But I need a better price.” I told him we would make it happen.

He sat down and told me and a few others the story of how he began collecting art about 1985. He kept looking straight at me as he told the story. I had the feeling it was for my benefit. He said he met Paul Strisik at a show and fell in love with one of his paintings. He really wanted it, but said he didn’t have the money for it. Paul told him to take it home and to start sending him monthly payments. He then made monthly payments for 15 more years to go on to owning 25 Paul Strisik paintings. The collector said that we artists really needed to make it easy for those that loved painting to own one. If they loved art, they would become collectors once they found a way to start. In this case, the collector became a raving fan of Paul Strisik as a person and of his art.

I’m not sure giving the art to just anyone who professed to love it is the right thing to do. But, I do agree that we as artists need to make it easier for people to own art.

I talked to several artist friends about this and asked if they did anything like this. Here are some of the things that I heard others say:

  • “I give the art to someone after they have made a down payment of 20%.”
  • “After 30% down, I give the art to the client.”
  • “I’ve taken post dated checks, putting one in a month for a certain period of time.”
  • “After a down payment, I take specified monthly payments.”
  • “I never hold the art to the end of payments.”
  • “I let the client take home the art to try it, just giving me their credit card information.”
  • “I always try to give the art to the client at the time of purchase when they are excited about it.”

I’ve had payment plans for clients buying art, but I never gave it to them until they already paid. One friend told me she always gave it to them after a down payment or shortly thereafter. Her thoughts were that she wants the client to receive the art when they are excited about it. If it is too long of a period of time before they receive the art, they may forget what it looks like or imagine something different, which could cause problems.

I’ve also let clients take a piece to their home and try it, leaving credit card information with me. I think this is a pretty standard practice. I haven’t had problems with this before.

I was surprised at how many artist friends gave the art to their client before they finished paying for it. One friend did give me a copy of a simple agreement for payments signed by both the artist and the client. It spells out the payments, dates payments are to be made and action if 20 days late on the payment. After listening to everyone talk about this subject, I think I will be more inclined to get a down payment, give them the art and take payments. But, I will also have each of us sign a contract spelling it out. It’s certainly not something I would do for anyone walking off the street, but if I have a good feeling about it, I will do it. I think the increase in sales may out weigh the chance that one painting might come up missing.

What do you think? Have you done anything similar? What are your experiences?


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  • Alyson B Stanfield February 28, 2014, 9:32 am

    Great article, Becky!

    I have always encouraged artists to wait until the work is paid off. But perhaps 50% paid off would be okay to give the work to.

    I worry about convoluted ownership if something were to happen to the work. Who insures it?

  • Sherri February 28, 2014, 11:14 am

    Great post. I have done layaway before, not a great name, but something that everyone knows about. I’m curious about this in your article. “…action if 20 days late on the payment.” Do you know what happens? Having a simple contract like this sounds good, or at least it will make me feel better.

  • David February 28, 2014, 11:28 am

    I have done this before. The client puts down a 20-25% down payment. I get their credit card information and we determine how much payments are over the determined time period. They take the art with them and I charge the payments for them at our predetermined times ie, first of each month, end of each month. They get the art and I get paid. It has worked every time for me.

  • Nanci Erskine February 28, 2014, 11:59 am

    Hi Becky- just found this link via Alyson on Facebook.
    Since I’ve been selling more of my own work, rather than through galleries, this has come up a couple of times.

    Even if it is someone that I know fairly well, we both are more comfortable with several monthly payments, and after the final one only then do they take possession. I often deliver the work to them, and I think the anticipation is part of the purchase in a way. There is less chance that things will get messy this way, and I would hate to become a collection agency on top of everything else I do.

  • Jacquie Gouveia February 28, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Great post Becky! I have let people pay thru payments, either by sending me a check or by sending the funds thru Paypal. I will let someone have the painting right away if I know them, or they have bought from me before. If it is someone who found me online, I will make sure the painting is paid for in full before I ship it to them.

    Great to hear what other artists are doing.

  • Anne February 28, 2014, 1:41 pm

    Over the years I have done installment payments, which to my mind is not the same thing as a collector who says, “you’ll need to give me a better price.” I’m all for installment payments. I no longer let people have a painting before it’s completely paid for, UNLESS they are a trusted friend/collector. And I mean really trusted. I have gotten burned more than once by someone who was a friend.

    Usually now, the installment payments are through galleries, and they have the credit card info on file. Again, they do not let the painting out of the gallery until it’s paid for. (extra trust-worthy clients excepted) I’m sorry if someone who now want s a time payment deal also wants a discount. I think the fact that I am gicing them an interest free loan is plenty generous.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:27 pm

    Anne, I found it interesting on facebook that artists seemed to get burned by their friends more often. I have always handled it like you do. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:28 pm

    Thanks Jacquie, I agree, it has been interesting to hear what artists have to say. I also agree that I wouldn’t just ship a painting to someone that found me online.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:31 pm

    Being a collection agency certainly is something to think about Nanci. We all know we have too much to do now anyway. Thanks for following the link.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:33 pm

    That sounds like a clean way to handle it David. I was surprised myself at how many people handle it the way you do. I’m glad it has worked well for you. I’ve always been of the opinion, that most of the people we deal with are good, honest people.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:34 pm

    The insurance is a great point Alyson. I hadn’t thought of that one. Now, it’s making me think this all over again.

  • Becky Joy February 28, 2014, 7:36 pm

    Sherri, I’m not sure what action she would take. It might be difficult to take any effective action. I know my friend said nothing has ever happened. I’ll have to ask her. Thanks for bring that up. I’ll try to put the answer in a future post.

  • Rebecca Crowell March 1, 2014, 8:44 am

    I had an awkward situation develop a number of years ago with a very good friend who continually forgot to send her monthly payment. I hated reminding her and having to bug her (she had the painting from the beginning, good friend and all that…fortunately our friendship survived intact!) Since then I have changed my policy and now there has to be some way for the money to arrive automatically. (Automatic deposit into my checking account or checks generated by the purchaser’s bank or post-dated checks.) Once that is in place and the person has made a down payment they have the painting. The down payment is usually half the purchase price but I negotiate if that isn’t possible especially with a larger painting. But that’s the starting point I ask for. I also ask that the painting be paid off in a year but again, I am flexible if the person finds that too difficult. All this has worked out well.

  • Becky Joy March 5, 2014, 7:56 am

    It’s interesting that I found most artists had the problems with their friends. I like the idea of automatic payments. I hadn’t thought of a way to set that up. Thanks for the response Rebecca.