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we make money, not art

Money box hammer

wow. i'm kind of in shock that it has finally happened, really. it's been such a long time coming - NAVA were lobbying for close to 20 years for this and all that work has paid off! 5%..

ok, for those who have no idea what i'm talking about, australia has been severely lacking in a royalty-style on-sell scheme for artists. as a recording artist, if you sell your work, and somebody profits from the playing/on-selling of that work, you get a cut. if you're a literary artist, you get on-sell royalty when your work is reproduced for educational or commercial purposes.

up until now, if you're an artist and someone buys your work at your grad show, you make it big-ish, the work sells at auction later-on and your $250 work now sells for $25,000 (thanks to all the hard work you've put in by having a gazillion other shows and hauling your arse around the place), you don't see squat. ok, so in theory, you get a slight flow-on from increased prices, but the reality is that the conniving investor/dealer pockets the $24,750 profit. and then some.

now, after 20 years of lobbying and lobbying and lobbying - developing models based on the successful UK/European Droite du Suite system, and more lobbying, it seems that the government has finally had the sense to pass the legislation, despite all the fussing from the auction houses.

given that they make most of their money from this kind of on-selling, the auction-houses have been the biggest and loudest opponents to the system, as they suggest that it shouldn't be the poor collectors, with their thousands of dollars to spare, to forfeit the cost of a thriving arts industry. actually, we all know that this is just a smoke-screen for avoiding the kind of auditing which has already started to expose the dodgy dealings of some of the big guns like menzies. allegedly menzies would buy, sell, buy and sell works all by himself, upping the price each time and generating a huge market! [wow - that'll get the prices up... err... sure.]

anyway, thankfully all that ridiculousness has passed and we can now have a little extra fairness going around. And to be fair, it's not perfect and not going to suddenly transform artists' bank balances into bulging cofferes. in fact, as a generalisation there are really two types of artists it will benefit the most: indigenous and superstars. And you know what? I'm OK with that.

There is a shocking, shocking industry in this country of buying indigenous artworks for a pittance (if they bother using cash at all, instead of a tin of petrol or a slab of beer) by taking advantage of either their ignorance, their addiction or their remoteness, and selling the works for huge amounts. hopefully with a new code of conduct, the lecherous aspects of the indigenous art industry will be reduced. and this legislation will provide for those same artists and their communities to continue getting funds from their works. considering the size of the indigenous art industry here, this is not just a boon for artists, but for indigenous rights and conditions. now, hopefully the systems developed to outlay the law will stay true.

And of the superstars? Well, we all know that the Nolans, the Streetons, the Olsens and the Whiteleys (or their estates) already get stacks of money from the sale of artworks. And, to be honest, this will increase the stacks. However, what i expect to happen (expect, do you see that estate managers/families?) is that a tradition which has already begun will continue - using (dead or über rich) artists' extra money, to support younger, up and coming artists. The Whiteley estate and the Olsens already plug money back into the development of younger artists. The Henry Moore foundation, surely supported by the UK's resale royalty scheme, supports up and coming artists. This new legislation will enable the big superstars to use the money to support the future artists, who will in turn use their resale royalty coffers to support others, etc, etc, etc - a trickle-down economy.

Well, at least when i'm a rich and famous artist, earning brazillians from the resale of my early work, that's what i'll be doing :)

For more (professional) info about resale royalty for australian artists:
the age

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At 06 October, 2008 02:54, Blogger lucazoid said...

how will it work? like, if i sold someone a thing ten years ago, but i'm not in touch with them any more, what effort are they obliged to go through to find me and give me some cash?

will this result in a huge amount of paperwork needing to be done?

i'm all for the droit de suite, just curious!

At 06 October, 2008 04:38, Anonymous lauren said...

hey lucazoid! glad you stopped by. i don't actually know the details of how the admin will work, but i'll try and find out - i would say NAVA and Arts Law will be able to give us some info.

I'm all for making the paperwork as easy as possible too. I would say that an agreement for sale must include something about lodging it with an independent body - like Viscopy? I also don't know if the legislation relates to auctioned sales from now on, or just initial sales from now on and won't really start to kick off for the secondary market for a few years..

At 06 October, 2008 09:54, Blogger Stan Lee said...

There's no royalty for the onsell of music. Is there?

The artist gets their cut from the original sale of a piece of muisc. However if it turns up in a second hand store or on eBay the artist gets nothing.

On top of that, unloved and unpopular records often end up selling for lots of money to collectors. Again no money is given to the artist.

As for auction houses. They're the ones making good money. 20% buyer's premium. 20% seller's premium. That's money for jam!

At 06 October, 2008 11:07, Anonymous lauren said...

no, stan you're right - not for the on-sell, but for the on-profit, i guess - when it's played on the r-r-radio, or on tv. and yeah, collectibles for music can totally bring in the big-bucks. but presumably, the artist has already made at least some money from royalties too...


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