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ArtBase Artist Agreement

Michael Connor, 28 Jun 2021

Rhizome asks all artists whom’s work enters the ArtBase collection to sign an ArtBase agreement that grants Rhizome certain rights to present their work in a public archive.

The full text of the ArtBase Agreement, as of February 2020, is presented below, including annotations.

Rhizome ArtBase Artist Agreement

Rhizome asks artists to agree to allow certain kinds of preservation actions to be undertaken without requiring specific permission from the artist:

Rhizome’s ArtBase provides long-term access to born-digital artworks and related information.

Rhizome’s goal is to keep all works in the ArtBase accessible to the public and maintain their fidelity and spirit. This will require preservation actions, based on the needs of the collection as a whole or an individual artwork. Rhizome will seek to perform only the most minimally invasive actions with your artwork and focus preservation on the environment the artwork is placed in. By including your work in the ArtBase, you are authorizing Rhizome to design and execute these types of preservation activities on your work. If preservation requires significant interference with your artwork, Rhizome will seek your approval.

The rationale for this is that Rhizome aims to conduct preservation activities that can be applied to entire classes of artworks without undertaking invasive changes to the artifacts representing the artworks themselves. Digital culture is mass culture, and we aim to move away from the standard museum model of in-depth restorations of “heroic” works, which often are updated or reconstructed to perform in contemporary software and network environments without reducing their maintenance surface for the future. For example, if we can offer access to all Flash-based works in the ArtBase via online emulation, we would do so without seeking further permission from the artists.

The ArtBase agreement does not give Rhizome the right to exhibit works of art without further permission from the artist, only to use the work in more standard educational activities. Exhibition of an artist’s work involves significant interpretation and contextualization that we feel is best undertaken with an artist’s direct involvement where possible:

Including your work in the ArtBase gives Rhizome permission to make it available online free of charge unless otherwise agreed in writing by both parties. By submitting work to the ArtBase, you also grant Rhizome the right to use your name and metadata about your artwork for purposes that include educating the public and representing Rhizome’s collection, including fundraising purposes and designing research projects. Rhizome may also use images of your work for these purposes. Submitting your artwork to the Artbase does not grant Rhizome permission to include it in public exhibitions without your approval.

Many artists in the ArtBase sell limited editions of their work to collectors while retaining public access in the ArtBase. The ArtBase agreement aims to clarify that Rhizome does not claim rights to the ownership or exhibition of archived artworks. However, Rhizome does claim ownership of its preservation work and infrastructure, and makes explicit our intention that this should not be included in public exhibition without our prior approval. We may decline exhibition requests if they exceed our capacity for technical support.

Even though you submit your artwork to Rhizome for inclusion in the ArtBase, you retain ownership of copyright and all other rights in your artwork. Inclusion of your artwork in the ArtBase does not preclude you from exhibiting your artwork elsewhere, online or offline. Nor does inclusion of your artwork in the ArtBase preclude you from selling or otherwise seeking financial compensation for your artwork in another context. However, inclusion of Rhizome’s preservation software and infrastructure in public exhibition or acquisition of your work should not be undertaken without Rhizome’s prior approval.

We believe that archival consent should be an ongoing process. Artists can choose to change their names or withdraw their works from circulation. Likewise, Rhizome can choose to withdraw works from the ArtBase at our discretion:

Requests to make changes to or remove your artwork from the ArtBase may be sent to and we will remove your work within sixty days at most. Rhizome also reserves the right to remove artworks from the ArtBase. You will be notified of a removal.