British Art Gallery Sues Artist

The Art Newspaper has reported that the British artist Sarah-Jane Szikora is being sued by her former art gallery, Halcyon. The Halcyon gallery was taking up to 75% of the sale price of works sold by the artist, which makes me think that the artist might be able to afford legal fees now that she should be putting 25% more of each sale in her own bank account. I know that art galleries have a lot of operating and marketing costs, but isn’t 75% of each sale a bit greedy?

Sarah-Jane Szikora nudes painting

Rather than repeating the story, here’s what’s happening in summary from the Art Newspaper..

“Ms Szikora was represented by Halcyon Gallery for 11 years until her contract expired on 1 January this year. Ms Szikora then arranged to mount a self-funded, solo exhibition in the Arndean Gallery in Cork Street which was scheduled to open to the public on 29 January.

On 28 January, Halcyon succeeded in securing an injunction from a High Court judge preventing the artist from opening the exhibition to the public or selling works from it, and is now suing Ms Szikora for breach of contract.

Halcyon Gallery says that under the terms of her agreement, she was obliged to offer all works made before 1 January to Halcyon on a first-refusal basis, which she failed to do.”

Update: I was just reading the news section on the artist’s website and thought I would include this from it..

“I remain the subject of legal action by Washington Green and Halcyon Gallery. Sadly, after years of loyal service to the Halcyon group, there is a claim by them that I have breached my contracts. They successfully brought me to court and prevented me from selling any art work at my recent ‘sugarlumps’ exhibition. It seems to be their intention to aquire this whole collection of very personal paintings via the courts, but they are now also seeking damages. I have no means to take on such a wealthy company and If they are successful in their claim, It is possible I will be bankrupt.
Blimey…I only want to paint and to pay my bills! how did this happen??
Artists out there, please….DO NOT sign contracts without legal advice!!!”

Find out more on the Sarah Jane Szikora website here.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Very sad, its such a shame that companies get so rich on the back of great talent while hard working artists struggle to make ends meat.

  2. 75% definitely sounds like it is on the excessive side.

  3. Yeah, looks a bit greedy to me. I dont think art galleries should be selling art for free as it’s not an easy business to be in, but 75% of each sale?!
    That’s a lot of expensive paintings to sell before the artist climbs above the poverty line!

  4. It seems to be unfair, but, and I stress, we don’t know all the details …

    She was sued for breach of contract – the amount of commission has little to do with that regardless of how fair or unfair it may be. “Halcyon Gallery says that under the terms of her agreement, she was obliged to offer all works made before 1 January (08?) to Halcyon on a first-refusal basis, which she failed to do.”

    Apparently she failed to do this as the court (judge) found.

    She simply could have created new works to show and then she would not have breached her contract and she would not have been sued with the result not being in her favor.

  5. True Matt, I agree.

    I was biased because of the 75%, which I still think is ridiculous.

    I would support the artist regardless of the facts.. just because the gallery comes across as being greedy.

  6. Usually galleries take 40-50%, but I have heard of a lot higher, even 90%. At 90% it’s just not worth the hassle, 75% is pretty steep too, sometimes it’s easier just to hire a space instead.

    When you think of how much time a person can take to make something and then divide it by how much you are going to earn from it by selling it minus commission, you hope to go above minimum wage!

    That contract reminds of record companies locking artists into deals with them for years, always check the small print I say.

  7. 90% is just sad Helly. I would rather give my paintings away.

    I think most artists are comfortable with 50% or below as art galleries need to make money too.

    Art galleries are becoming less important with time, just like big record companies. You dont have to sell as many paintings or CDs if most of each sale is going into your pocket.

    Not everyone is interested in promoting their own work though, so art galleries and record companies will always be around.

  8. 75 is too high,
    seems greedy

  9. I don’t think I would ever sign up with a gallery that took 75%, YIKES! It’s true we don’t know all the facts, but they seem awfully heavy handed. Definitely a warning to those out there to never sign anything until you have your own lawyer check it over.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Galleries should not take more than 50% of a sale. Any more is a bad deal and unethical. Reputable galleries do not make their artists sign contracts. The works are held on consignment and if the artist is not happy they should be able to take their work somewhere else. Restrictive contracts are counter productive.

    Anonymous Art-dealer

  11. Anonymous says:

    The reactions here are typical of some artists not wanting to understand basic business principles. The gallery has probably spent fortunes building up her name and her reputaion to what is today. When she started, she probably couldn’t even get a price of 1% of the price being fetched today,so in absolute terms, 25% of the huge price being fetched today (which is thanks to the gallery promoting and building a market for her works) is a decent amount.
    In any case, she willingly entered the contract with the gallery for 75%.
    Running a gallery has huge overheads and in the early stages of building an artists’s name, the gallery often does not make any money at all, so the bottom line is she seemed happy to sign the contract in the beggining – if it is such a ‘greedy’ amount why did she not start by having her own exhibtions as she now wants to do?? The answer is it is far easier to let a gallery do all that work, allowing her to focus on her real talent, even at 75% commission..


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