This paper explores the function and purpose of the Artist’s Contrast as a legal document—but not from the perspective of legal enforceability, which is how legal effectiveness is traditionally measured. Rather this paper tells the story of a document that relies upon hallmarks of law (legal language, formality, specificity, and so on) in order to express and attempt to consolidate particular views on artists, artworks, the collectors to whom they sell, and the markets in which they sell. This powerful connection inevitably continues past the moment of sale, and the Artist’s Contract can be read as an attempt to rearrange this connection, to intervene and alter it, to adjust the perspectives of all those participating in it or observing it—all by means of a particular, peculiar legal document. By our account, the goal of the document was to rearrange relationships of creators and buyers of art not just in particular transactions but on a much broader scale: to reshape norms of the marketplace and conceptions of the relevant rights and responsibilities of market participants. It is in the context of these complex social, cultural, and economic webs that the legal document in question can be best understood.

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Notes/Citation Information

Christopher G. Bradley & Brian L. Frye, Art in the Age of Contractual Negotiation, 107(4) Ky. L.J. 547 (2019).


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