Rent-A-Swag! A brief conversation about leasing your artwork.

The following is a short email conversation between a MassArt student who was approached by someone at an art festival about letting her have a work of art on a trial basis before purchasing.  By all means feel free to disagree with my answer or elaborate on other options.

Dear Lucas Spivey,

I have sold one of my artworks at (a local arts festival) and the buyer wants to purchase another one. She asked me if she could purchase, take it home and have a week to live with it in her home to decide if she wants to return it to me at a refund. I don't know if this is normal, nor how I feel about it. I was wondering if your gallery has a return/refund policy or if all buys were final?

Sincerely,
(name withheld)


Imagine letting the buyer "try this out"!
Doug Bell's Stack 17 Fort Cox and Benjamin Benson Evans' TV Dinner
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Woodward Photography


Hi (name withheld),

This is one of those situations where the artist realizes what it's like to be 'a shop'!

To answer your question, our gallery (17 Cox) is for site specific installation art and a lot of our work is massive, so it would be exhausting if everyone wanted to 'try it out' before buying.  

However, I do know plenty of galleries and artists that offer to let the buyer take it home to try it out.  Some galleries offer a rental of their artwork as well.  After all, a work of art needs to fit in a home or office just like furniture, appliances, pets, decor, etc.  There's no hard and fast rule about 'trying out' artwork.  It absolutely comes down to whether that is something you want to do with your work.  However you proceed, just make sure you proceed accordingly.  

For example, realize that it takes more time on your part to complete a sale where the buyer doesn't purchase the work outright.  You might be exchanging the work several times and not even get anything in the end if they aren't happy.  

However, if you don't offer this service, it might mean losing a sale, since they aren't interested in buying something they can't try it out.  

You might only offer a trial for more expensive works and only for a limited period.  Whatever you decide, make sure it leaves you happy and draw up a contract with specifics for the (hopefully) buyer.

I hope that helps!
Lucas