The culmination of th’s activities in the art world would be the artist’s contract (1971), intended to be a ‘self-help docu- ment’ for artists. The contract came out of research into the inequalities of the art sys- tem and the question of how artists could better protect their rights. Before drafting it, Seth interviewed hundreds of artists and galleries to canvas their views. From this he drew two main conclusions which he framed in the contract: first, that artists needed a mechanism whereby they could benefit from the re-sale of their work and second, that they needed to control the ex- hibition of their works even after ownership had been transferred.
The artist’s contract was prophetic. The artist’s resale right has now been adopted in the laws of many countries, includ- ing throughout the European Community whilst the protection of artists’ rights of authorship has also been recognized; see for instance, the Visual Artists Rights Act 1990 (US). The contract, however, was also deep- ly impractical. Founded on the premise that the collector of the artwork when selling it would have to find another collector to ratify the same agreement was never going to be an attractive proposition. Unsurprisingly, the contract was only adopted by a few art- ists, most notably by the uncompromising Hans Haacke.
From the early 1980s onwards, Seth would begin amassing his collection of tex- tiles. This is a remarkable collection –largely of fragments -consisting of textiles from different cultures/periods (from ancient Peruvian rugs to 18th century French em- broidered cloth) that Seth had been able to acquire gradually on modest means. To begin with, Seth, the incorrigible bibliophile, bought books on textile.