Being art market professionals

Peter Deck. Pepper shaker

The Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Act comes into effect on 9 June.  The royalty of 5% applies to any work of visual art that is resold by an art market professional  after 8 June 2010 for $1,000 or higher. The royalty applies to all resales up until 70 years after the creator’s death.

While most of our sales are for much lower sums, we do have works for resale in our gallery in this price range. The royalty does not apply to the first transfer of ownership of existing works, even if this is a re-sale. This means that we will only start paying royalties for items we resell that we have acquired after 8 June.

The   Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) has been elected to administer the scheme, collecting royalties and redistributing them to the artists or their heirs.  Art market professionals will have to provide them with information about all commercial resales, including those that do not generate a royalty. I expect that we will need to make a clear distinction in our stock between production ware and one-off pieces. I can’t see them being interested in the $10 pepper shaker by Peter Deck that I have just listed in the online shop, however beautiful I find it as a ceramic object.

To administer the scheme CAL will be developing a database of visual artists and art works.  (They already have expertise in doing this for printed materials.)  The payment of royalties depends on knowing the identity of the artist, and marks and signatures may be used as evidence to establish this.  Metadata and images collected to support this identification process could be very useful in the long term for researchers.

When ownership is transferred from one individual to another without the involvement of an art market professional, the royalty does not apply. The occasional sale on eBay is therefore excluded. However, David and I consider ourselves to be art market professionals regardless of whether we sell through our gallery or online shop, or on eBay. Paying royalties on the resale of visual art objects makes sense to us, in a world where recognition can come late or not at all in the lifetime of an artist, and dealers can buy work at low prices and sell them at many times their original value in other markets.

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