25 July

GraysOnline Art Prize – Updated Review

So many artists have taken to social media this month asking us to review this competition so here it is! It’s a competition where you can’t get your artwork back if it doesn’t win or sell and can’t object to a sale of your work for as little as $9 – will that even cover the cost of sending it in?

Arts Law reviews competitions for their terms and conditions, usually focussing just on the copyright and moral rights implications but often more broadly if the terms and conditions raise important implications that we want to draw to artists’ attention. Entrants should always weigh up Arts Law’s comments against the prize and possible profile-raising which may result from being a finalist or winner! Artists are welcome to contact Arts Law for legal advice on the terms of a competition. We also invite competition organisers to contact Arts Law for best practice assistance to make their terms and conditions fairer for artists.

By accepting the terms and conditions of a competition, artists should be aware that they are entering a legally binding contract. For more information on competition conditions see our free information sheet here.

This competition has not been rated using our star system as that system focusses exclusively on the terms relating to copyright and moral rights. It would however have been considered unrateable as not all terms and conditions are available prior to entry.

Entering this competition requires you to send in an artwork to be sold online. You cannot set a reserve price and bids start at $9 so entrants are effectively agreeing to a minimum price of $9 less the commission which will be charged. There are no details of the commission available online. Clause 4 states that entrants “will need” to enter a separate Vendor Agency agreement with Art Invest Pty Ltd which we understand is the company sponsoring the prize. There is no copy of that agreement available online that we could find. However Arts Law has been provided with a copy of that agreement which does set out the amount of commission and other charges and deductions as well as several terms which seem inconsistent with the advertised competition terms. We strongly recommend you ask for a copy and review this BEFORE entering the competition.

There are prizes on top of the sales proceeds. Judging takes place through the process of bidding, with the artwork receiving the highest bid resulting in a sale awarded first prize of $10,000, second highest bid awarded second prize of $3,000 and third highest bid awarded $1000. So it is a lot of money if you win …

There is nothing in these terms suggesting that GraysOnline or Art Invest seek an assignment of artist’s copyright. All entrants give a licence of copyright to GraysOnline and Art Invest Pty Ltd to use images of their works to promote the exhibition and prize which is not unreasonable. Given the auction component, such a licence is needed so that GraysOnline can actively promote the sale by auction of the work during the competition. However, there is no time limit on the licence – so it’s a non-exclusive royalty free licence which arguably continues for as long as they want to talk about the competition and exhibition – in theory this could be the full term of copyright. The winning entrants also grant an unlimited royalty free perpetual licence of copyright which is not limited as to purpose.

The competition terms and conditions do not contain any positive requirement to acknowledge the artist when their work is reproduced however, on the positive side, neither is there any term in the advertised competition terms requiring entrants to consent to conduct that would infringe their moral rights.

What is concerning about this competition is that according to the advertised terms and conditions, if the work isn’t sold during the online auction – scheduled to take place between 6 and 20 September 2016 – there is no backing out. You must leave your work with GraysOnline indefinitely for them to sell. Clause 8 of the competition terms and conditions states that if an artwork results in an unpaid sale during the first online auction, it will be reoffered for sale in the next GraysOnline unreserved art auction and will continued to be reoffered until it is sold.

The works are held by Art Invest Pty Ltd while GraysOnline conduct the auction process. Art Invest Pty Ltd makes it clear that it assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered to any artwork in its possession and clause 22 states that it will not be insuring your work while it’s in their possession. While that is quite common in art prizes, usually works are returned to artists after the conclusion of the prize period or can be collected. That does not appear to be the case here. Your work remains indefinitely with GraysOnline and/or Art Invest Pty Ltd until sold and if it’s lost or damaged while in their possession so that it can no longer be offered for sale, you will never receive any payment. It is not clear how the indemnity in clause 22 operates but arguably there are circumstances in which the artist may end up paying compensation to Art Invest if the work is damaged or lost.

So if they lose it or damage it with the result that it can’t be sold, that’s it.

It seems like a lot of downside for not much upside, however if you’re an unrepresented artist having trouble selling your work and you are prepared to take the risk of earning less than $9, you may still think it  worth your while. You never know, you might win the $10000!



  • GraysOnline Art Prize – deadline 19th of August
  • Details about the prize available here


Further information

Please email us at [email protected] to tell us about any competitions or prizes you think we should review. 

See more about Arts Law's campaign to improve competition terms and conditions in the Prizes and Competitions section.