The importance of assessing quality of Artworks

in Art Gallery’s contract



By Louison Marguerite

SKEMA Business School

Lille, France



Although artworks have been traded all around the world for decades and represent a huge market, the notion of quality linked to the process and the criteria evaluation is often under estimated and neglected. Indeed, the contracts often do not precisely describe the investment, other than monetary, that the Art Galleries should show during the project to ensure its success.

It will be ideally necessary to add more quality measurements in the existing agreements or directly news clauses within contracts that are can be adapted for improving the assessment of quality of artworks and of the process, which can be considerate as a part of the artwork itself.

This paper aims to analyse different alternatives found using a multi-attributes decision analysis method. From the various suggestions, one of the options seems to be the best solution for assessing quality. The communication and the implementation of clear milestones between owners and contractors clearly established quality assurance criteria are a significant success factor within a project. Indeed, if both owners and contractors are responsible for establishing quality control measures and maintaining quality assurance within the entire process in the project and agree upon quality control milestones, this may result with a better project execution, reduction of the complaints between the parties, increase the communication efficiency and reduce tension.

Key words: Quality assurance, product quality, quality process, quality criteria, artworks


With 2016 auctions that total $ 12.45 billion with 675,500 lots sold + 11% of lots sold in the West (USA + 24%, UK + 27%), Arts markets represent a huge place for trade exchanges worldwide, also, to secure all the parties involved in these exchanges, there is an important need for contract agreements. Moreover, regarding the countries, the different new art movements and the social evolution of the common perception of artworks new standards and contracts has to be determined. For instance, last year The England Arts councils decided to impose new quantitative measures of arts quality and redefined all its quality assessments basis, such a decision underlines the need for some parties to improve the existing basis to protect their investments and works. That’s why here I will try to understand the mechanisms used to evaluate quality of artworks.

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilfully execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives,” noticed William A. Foster. To give a general definition, quality refers to a standardized attribute which permits one to describe something or someone. In artworks, value does not only depend on the singular and subjective appreciation of each; on the contrary, they have quality criterions that can be noted and quantified in order to give real value to these works: materials used, techniques apprehended, renown of the artist, and so on.  The Painter Balance, realized by Piles in 1708, enumerated the 4 main principles to reach the level of quality expected for the product. That Balance is still used today but has evolved regarding the novelties in artworks.

However, the standards may vary regarding countries and institutions: The Culture Minister define some rules that will have a huge impact on the institutional market, while the Merchant market might have different expectations and appreciations. Here we will focus on the Merchant market and more specifically on the Art galleries’ contract.

By making the present study my objectives are to underline the importance of quality in Art Gallery contracts as a mean to evaluate the value of the artwork but as well to secure the payment and to promote new artists. My focus will be on quality process, assurance and on the quality of the product delivered. How does a poor-quality process affect a product even if the primary material’s quality is high? Is a good process being enough to reach the product quality? Finally, this paper seeks to answer to: How to be sure that the expected product quality and quality process will be delivered?

In this paper, we will make a comparison between Art Galleries’ contracts and some baseline documents such as Public Art Guideline and Criteria, CSI Manual, CD ROM. The objective of this paper is to find Art gallery’s contracts strength and opportunities as well as weaknesses and threats to try to give recommendations to improve the quality aspects in contract’s and provide beneficial outcomes.


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Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director [email protected].

About the Author

Louison Marguerite

SKEMA Business School
Lille, France



Louison Marguerite was born in Caen, a little city located in Normandy, France. An active child that loved to read comics and invented games to play with her little brother, she learned piano and practiced Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, for five years. During weekends her parents took her to many Art exhibitions, which is why, artworks are a centre of interest. She completed her studies in Caen before moving to Lille and integrating at Skema Business School.

Currently, she is a student following an MS in Project and Program Management and Business Development at SKEMA Business School.  In the High School Program, at Lille, she chose to follow that master mostly because she liked the idea that each project she might work on would be unique and because of the time limited aspect of projects. She was lucky enough to travel a lot during her studies thanks to a semester abroad and a gap year, especially in Asia (China, South Korea, Laos and so on). That enabled her to accumulate experience as community manager and CRM and increased her interest in discovering other cultures and traveling worldwide. Fond of culture and history, she plans to work in foreign countries to discover new approaches and developed my personal adaptation skills few years after my graduation.

Aware that hard work gets results, she is energetic and diligent. Naturally curious of everything, Louison loves learning and considers that being positive in life is one of the keys for doors to open. Her ambition is to make every day worth living, whether it manifests itself at work or through passions.