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Royalties for artists: my viewpoint
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I recently came across this article by Daniel Grant on AFA News. It examines the controversial California resale royalties law. According to the law, contemporary art collectors, auctioneers, galleries and dealers are required to pay a 5% royalty to original artists upon resale of that artist’s work. Amazingly, they are required to pay royalties to the artist’s heirs if that artist has died within the last 70 years.

Several recent law suits have brought attention to the California law which is similar to one currently in effect in England and other parts of Europe. Even many contemporary artists feel that this law is unfair. Although it does not affect me personally, I feel very strongly that it is not fair. And now, two knuckle-head politicians have tried to introduce it on a federal level (read the article). Fortunately, It was not passed.

Lets think about this (California obviously didn’t). Although I am a rabid supporter of the arts and agree with helping struggling artists wherever possible, this tariff does not help them. In Europe, only six percent of this bogus “fine” goes to living artists. The rest goes to their heirs and the entity that collects the fines. Those artists who benefit from the law are generally the ones who are doing okay, because their art commands a high price in the market place. The starving artist is still starving. Legislation can’t help him, only patrons of the arts can.

Buyers who support the arts are doing just that. Supporting the arts. So we should penalize them if they profit on their investment? What about the patrons who feel so strongly about helping a particular artist that they continue to buy that artist’s works even when they don’t really need any more. It happens all the time. Lets fine them as well!

Buying and selling contemporary art has inherent risks. When you buy art, you risk that the market will go down. When you sell, you risk that the market will go up. If you are not willing to take the risk, don’t make the transaction. Artist included. How about if I buy a contemporary artwork from a living artist for $10,000 and when I sell it 5 years from now, it only brings $2,000? Will that artist share in my loss? Should I send him an invoice for a percentage of my losses? What about the piece that my Father bought 50 years ago from an artist who is no longer living? If we sell it a for less than Dad paid, should I send a bill to the children of the artist? If I sold it for more, I would have to pay them! Are you kidding me California? Lets not take responsibility for our choices, but rather, lets insist on getting something that we have not earned. Perfect. What right does the Grandchild of an artist who has been dead for nearly 70 years have to take a piece of the profit from a risk that I take?

I think we should take it a step further. I’ve lived in the same house for 23 years. It is worth quite a bit more today than what I paid for it. Much of the home’s value is the artistry and fine workmanship of the builder. I think when I sell, I’ll pop a check in the mail to the Grandson of the builder. He’ll like that.

Read the article and let me know what you think by leaving me a comment. Do you feel as strongly as I do?

Here it is:

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