Category Archives : Regularly Asked Questions


Regularly Asked Questions

Our help desk have a number of questions that are constantly asked by our members.  In this section we outline our advice under the following headings.

If you have a query you would like answered please contact our help desk by telephone or at info@visualartists.ie

Membership
Why should I become a member of Visual Artists Ireland?
What are the benefits of being a member of Visual Artists Ireland?

Contracts
What should I look for in an exhibition contract?

Tax & Self-Employment
I wish to apply for the Artists’ Tax Exemption. How do I go about it?
I am an artist registered as self-employed. Please would you advise me regarding preparing my annual tax returns.

Exhibiting
How do I attract professional critics and curators to my exhibition?

Selling
I am considering using an agent to help me promote and sell my work. Where can I find one?

Pricing & Costings
I have won a commission to design a corporate Christmas card for a commercial company. Would you advise me as to the going rate for this type of work?

Copyright
I have been approached by a person who wishes to one of my images on an album cover. Can you advise me on the copyright implications of such an exchange?

Commissions
I have completed a commission for a local authority. What are the implications of ownership and copyright with regard to public art commissions?

Insurance
I need to get insurance for my studio – can you advise?


I need to get insurance for my studio – can you advise?

Visual Artists Ireland recommends the insurance brokers O’Driscoll O’Neil to artists in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Several agencies offer different forms of insurance, however we recommend that you speak to an expert who is fully aware of the artists’ needs.

O’Driscoll O’Neil can provide insurance cover to protect your art practice. Insurance covered includes, public liability, goods in transit, employers liability, equipment, property damage and more..

O’Driscoll O’Neil
17/18 Herbert Place, Dublin 2
T: (01) 6395800
www.odon.ie

You can download a PDF guide to a recent presentation by O’Driscoll O’Neil here: ODON-Artists-Insurance-Policies.pdf


I have completed a commission for a local authority. What are the implications of ownership and copyright with regard to public art commissions?

It is considered best practice for the commissioner to lay out details of ownership and copyright in the original commission brief or in the artists’ contract. I would advise you to review the original commission brief and your contract to see if these issues were addressed. If these issues were not addressed and you have not assigned your copyright to the commissioner then the copyright remains with you. Assigning rights mean someone else becomes the owner of the copyright as well as the work. Visual Artists Ireland recommends that artists never assign their copyright to anybody.

When it comes to commissioning the issue of ownership is a bit of a grey area especially if there is no agreement in place. When a commissioner commissions a piece of work for a specific purpose there is an implied contract that the commissioner will own the work (though not the copyright – again unless you assigned it to them). With no agreement, the issue of ownership is open to interpretation. Thus, artists are advised to spell out their position concerning ownership when the terms of the commission are agreed.

When a commissioner commissions a piece of work then they have the right to reproduce the work in a variety of ways – for example using an image of the work for promotional purposes, on a website or in brochures. This should be stated in a contract or in the commission brief. If it is not, then it is implied that the commission can use the commissioned work in a number of ways.

As part of your copyright, you have moral rights, one of which is the right to paternity. So if the commissioner uses the work in a publication or on a website, you have the right to be identified as the creator of the work in the publication or on the website. The commissioner is the only party entitled to publish the work. If another party wishes to publish the work, they need your permission because you are the copyright owner.

There are a few texts in The Manual that address these issues in more detail:

The first entitled ‘Copyright and the Visual Artist’ written by Solicitor Linda Scales, explains copyright and how it works, ownership, assigning and licensing rights, moral rights and information on copyright infringement.

The second text is entitled ‘Handling Disputes’. Here, Linda Scales provides advice to artists on how to avoid professional disputes and manage those that do occur. The information includes a sample letter of complaint that deals with infringement of copyright.

Another entitled ‘Contracts’ explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. Here you will find sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork.


I have been approached by a person who wishes to one of my images on an album cover. Can you advise me on the copyright implications of such an exchange?

Unless you assigned your copyright to somebody else then you own the copyright. Assigning rights mean someone else becomes the owner of the copyright as well as the work. Visual Artists Ireland recommends that artists never assign their copyright to anybody. If you are the copyright owner then you have the right to use the work as you wish.

In this case, you should license your copyright to the person who wants to use your image on an album cover. Licensing means that another person can use the copyright material. There are a few ways of licensing copyright:

An exclusive license is a license, which is in writing and signed by you the copyright owner. Under an exclusive license, the licensee is the only person who can use the work in the way covered by the license. It is common in book publishing agreements, for example, for a writer to grant the publisher an exclusive license to print and publish the writer’s book. The writer is not then entitled to license another publisher to publish the same book during the period of the license.

Non-exclusive License: If you grant a non-exclusive license to do something with your work, you may continue to use your work in that way and you can also grant other people non-exclusive licenses to use your work in that way. You should negotiate and agree on the terms and conditions of the license. Discuss where the image will be used. Will it be used on the album cover exclusively or will it be used on flyers, brochures and websites for example. It is also important to state where the album will be distributed (locally or internationally) and the number of copies made. These are issues you need to discuss, agree on, put down in writing and have signed by both parties.

There are a few texts The Manual section of our website that you should find useful.

The first is entitled ‘Copyright and the Visual Artist’. Here solicitor Linda Scales presents an overview of copyright and how it works. She also advises artists on how to protect their copyright and what steps to take if copyright is infringed.

The second is ‘Contracts’. Here Linda Scales explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. She also provides sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork.


I have won a commission to design a corporate Christmas card for a commercial company. Would you advise me as to the going rate for this type of work?

There is no going rate for this type of work as such. Many artists focus on finding the right price for their work but this cannot be done in the absence of knowing how much it costs to make the work. A number of variables – such as your time, your profile and your expenses – need to be considered before you can come up with a fee or a price. Where the card is distributed and the number of copies made will also play a factor in the price you charge. For example, if your artwork is going to be used by a global multinational, your fee would be much higher than if it is to be used by a local community enterprise.

There is a text in The Manual section of our website which we commissioned especially for artists that advises on how to go about pricing and costing artwork. Writer Annette Clancy provides practical advice on how to calculate and cost the labour time and overheads of your creative practice as well as guidance on how to price completed works and other artistic activity. View the text entitled ‘The Science and Art of Pricing and Costing Your Work’.

Another important thing to consider is drawing up a contract with the commissioner. You will need to give the commissioner a license to reproduce your artwork. Solicitor Linda Scales has written a text on Contracts tailored for artists. In it, she explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. She also provides sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork. You can view the text on Contracts in The Manual.


I am considering using an agent to help me promote and sell my work. Where can I find one?

There are very few, if any, agents in Ireland. It is more a case that galleries (commercial) act as agents on behalf of artists. To be represented by a gallery is not an easy task. Most commercial galleries do not like to receive unsolicited proposals. Generally speaking, it is the commercial gallery that approaches the artist with a view to representing them.

Thus, it is very important to keep pushing your practice and making sure your work is out there, exhibiting as much as possible so that you make it onto the radar of gallery owners and/or curators and that they are, at the very least, aware of your existence and where you are showing. There is no harm in send a polite email enquiring if they would be interested in viewing your portfolio and/or inviting them to your exhibition(s).

Do some research and find out who is who in the galleries that you think most suit to your work. Get acquainted with that person and make sure they are on your contact list. One of the most important aspects of being an artist is building and nurturing your contacts – be they art administrators, gallerists, buyers, curators etc. Develop a contact list, keep it up to date and send important people personal emails and invites to every show that you do have.

There are a few texts in The Manual that may guide you with marketing your art practice.

‘Preparing Proposals’,
‘Exhibiting with Galleries’,
‘Artists, Commercial Galleries and the International Art Market’,

Also, VAI runs workshops during the year the assist artists in presenting their work and practice.  These are advertised through our eBulletin and in the Professional Development pages of our website.


How do I attract professional critics and curators to my exhibition?

There is no set way of attracting curators, critics or other art professionals to shows. For most artists getting a review is a result of building and nurturing relationships with art professionals over a long period. This can be summed up as networking – doing your research, finding out names of the professionals you wish to target, introducing yourself to them (in person or via email) and nurturing these relationships. Keep them informed of all your art activities, suggest that they drop by your studio, personally invite them to your shows and then invite them to write a review.

Of course, this rarely yields immediate results but the important thing is to make sure you are on their radar – that they know your name, a little bit about your work, and when you are showing. There are only a small number of writers and critic in Ireland but there are hundreds of shows around the country each week. Critics cannot possibly see everything so it really is up to you the artist to ensure that writers and critics are at least aware of what you are up to.

It is advisable to learn the art of writing press releases (if you are not represented by a gallery who will do this for you). The information you provide in the press release should be factual and clear, and have some sort of edge that will attract critics and press to the show.

When you have researched your lists of contacts, each should be sent a press release and a personal invite to the show. Tell them a little bit about it within the body of the email and invite them to meet you there for a glass of wine. You can follow this up with a phone call to remind them. It does not work most of the time but through persistence and dedication you should be lucky sometimes.

To develop a good contact list you should research all the major art publications, writers, press officers, gallerists, journalists etc in the country and get their personal contact details.

A good place to start is the Who’s Who in The Manual.

Here you will find contact details for all the galleries, arts organisations, media and promotional tools and also a list of Irish and International art publications.


I am an artist registered as self-employed. Please would you advise me regarding preparing my annual tax returns.

It is impossible to provide a detailed answer to this question as the issue is too subjective. However, Visual Artists lreland has commissioned Gaby Smyth and Co Accountants to prepare a guide on Tax, PRSI and Social Insurance benefits for self-employed artists.

This guide provides advice on how to keep books and records, prepare your accounts and how to file your returns. You can view the guide in The Manual section of the website.

Flannigan Edmonds Bannon, Chartered Accountants have prepared a very similar guide for artists in Northern Ireland. You can view it also find it in The Manual.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners website has more comprehensive information on self-employment generally.

Northern Ireland artists should check the HM Revenue and Customs website.


I wish to apply for the Artists’ Tax Exemption. How do I go about it?

The Revenue website provides all the information you need to apply for the Artists’ Tax Exemption. Here you will find information on how the scheme works, eligibility, how to claim and the required claim forms. The site also provides a useful FAQ’s section relating to the Scheme. See: www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/reliefs/artists-exemption.html

In addition, The Manual contains an article entitled ‘Tax and Self-Employment’ written by Gaby Smyth and Co. Accountants. Here you will find information on Tax, PRSI and Social Insurance benefits and the Tax Exemption for self-employed artists.


What should I look for in an Exhibition contract?

It is a very good idea to have a contract between you and the gallery, agreed at the planning stage, which lays out the terms and conditions of the preparation, exhibition and uninstalling period. This document should provide you with a framework that will keep any potential problems to a minimum.

The gallery will probably provide a document detailing a standard set of terms, which will be tailored to suit your individual circumstances. You will be asked to confirm acceptance of the terms. Some of the most important items to be addressed include:

• The duration and dates of the exhibition.
• The number of works to be exhibited, with a description
• The party responsible for transit arrangements, and insurance while in transit.
• Responsibility for hanging, and any special requirements of the artist.
• The terms of sale of the works, or other remuneration for the artist, with date of payment by the gallery.
• Gallery commission
• Arrangements for opening reception, including publicity.
• Insurance of works by the Gallery for the duration of the exhibition.
• Security and invigilation arrangements.
• Procedure in case of damage to work.

When presented with a set of standard terms by a gallery, you may find that not all matters are covered, or that some are not applicable. It is vital that any issues arising should be settled by negotiation as early as possible, confirmed in writing and added to the agreement.

Solicitor Linda Scales has prepared an article on Contracts which you will find in The Manual section of this website. It explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. This article also includes a comprehensive checklist of matters to be addressed when preparing to exhibit with a gallery.