ASK THE ARTSPERTS
by Juliana Meek and Kristine Meek
I commissioned a local artist to create a painting for my living room and while I was at the frame shop picking up my new painting, a decorator stopped to compliment me on the painting and asked if I would give her permission to make a giclee of the painting for her client. Can I give her permission since I commissioned the painting?
The Commissioner Central Park” by Adolf Dehn, watercolor, 21” x 29”, 1942
From your point of view, as someone who paid an artist to create a work of art for you, it may seem like you should have every right to use the work in whatever way you want. After all, without your commission, the artist would not have created the work. But the law favors the artist because every work of art is unique. Creating a work of art, even one that is commissioned, requires inspiration, talent, and technique. For example, let’s say you commission an artist to paint Central Park in New York City. It will look vastly different from one artist to the next because every artist has a unique perspective and technique. You can see the artistic differences in these paintings of Central Park. With the work you commissioned, you most likely chose the artist based
on his or her particular technique. It wouldn’t be fair to the artist to reproduce their creative and unique work without their explicit permission. Taking the artist point of view into consideration, you can see why the law favors the artist. Even with commissioned works by private collectors, the artist will retain legal intellectual copyright to the work of art. The artist is the only one who can give permission to the decorator for reproducing the work in a giclee print. When commissioning a work, it is always best to agree ahead of time and in writing any future uses of the work of art by both the artist and the private collector. And of course, consult a lawyer who best can guide you through the complex world of copyrights.
Featured art “American Elm – Humboldt Statue Central Park” by Jessica Daryl Winer, acrylic on canvas, 42” x 48”, 2012
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