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Commission Question and Publishing on Facebook

Debra Montgomeray copper reliefodgeHi Harriete:
I just delivered a large commission for a customer - my first commission through an art consulting firm. It was for a celebrity / well-known TV personality. My portfolio is obviously my means of representing my work. However, I was told I could not publish on my website or Facebook, etc., any photos of this piece until they publish it first, either on the designer's website or they are working on getting the home featured in Architectural Digest or another magazine such as that. However, this could take up to 6 months.

Debra Montgomery Copper commissionWhat are your thoughts on artists' rights to publishing images of their own work, etc?

I realize that having my work possibly in a magazine is worthy as well, but if that doesn't happen, I have missed out on 6 months of potential exposure and possible similar work.

I have never been asked this before so I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but what do you think?

Is there anything I can add to my commission contracts in the future to protect myself on this issue in the future? I have attached some photos of a large piece I did a couple of years ago that is similar in nature.
Debra Montgomery

Did you have a commission contract? These issues (if they are important to you or important to the client) should have been specified in the contract.  Contracts help clarify expectations.  Clear communication with the client is most important.

They are asking you to hold off, which may make you lose some opportunities during this period, but they are offering some significant potential as well.  So it sounds more like a business decision.  If you really think that they can get your work in a major magazine (like Architectural Digest), I'd give them time. Your work will still be fresh to new eyes in 6 months.

Legally, if this request is not specified in the contract, you can do as you please.  However, if you publish now despite their requests, you might gain a reputation of being uncooperative.  On the other hand, if they unreasonably string you along for months and months (beyond six months), they would lose credibility and I would get back on track with your images on Facebook and elsewhere. 

In the meantime, can you make another piece to promote or blog about other aspects of this commission? Are you allowed to talk about working with this client? Or can you discuss ideas and the experience that you had with this type of high-profile commission (not naming names of course.) Perhaps you would like to write about doing a celebrity commission and the pros and cons. Lots of people would love to hear about your experience. (I could publish some of this on ASK Harriete so other people can learn from your experience.)

In preparing for future commissions, it is close to impossible to anticipate everything.  Each commission will be different when we are working with new clients, new commissions, and different circumstances. Each time we hope to learn a little more from the experience.

Even in the one-of-a-kind exhibition world, the work may be finished for months, even 6 months in advance, before the exhibition opens and promotion for the show begins. Usually, the artists can talk about the work, but many times it is worth waiting.  When the exhibition opens, there is much more publicity coming from many different sources all creating momentum for the work in the exhibition, the exhibiting artists, and attendance in the exhibition.

I think the speed of our daily lives and the Internet makes us think that promotion has to happen the second our work is finished. This is a misleading concept. You will have months to promote the work. If the work is really good, it may become your signature work included in books, magazines, and blogs for years to come.

If anyone else has an opinion about this topic, please leave a comment.


PS  Thanks for sharing.

This post was updated on March 12, 2022, to provide current links.
DMCOPPERmasonic lodge4
"Weeping Virgin"  by Debra Montgomery 2009       3' x 4'