Royalties

Given the surge of multimillion-dollar auction records boasted by Christie’s and Sotheby’s on an almost monthly basis, how do the auction houses justify lobbying against a bill that might pay artists for their works? When Art F City asked a Christie’s spokeswoman, she insinuated that successful artists simply don’t need more money: “European studies have shown that resale royalty schemes provide support to less than 5% of working artists, and the artists receiving royalties tend to be those commanding the highest prices on the primary market.”

Sure, for most artists, large secondary markets are a best case scenario. But only a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry would force us to re-examine a kindergartener’s understanding of ethics. Whether artists are successful or unsuccessful, making millions or pennies, they deserve to share in the money their work generates. “The A.R.T. Act won’t benefit every artist, unfortunately, but this is not an anti-poverty program,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), sponsor of the failed 2011 Equity for Visual Artists Act, told me over the phone. “This is a fairness and equity program. Just because we can’t bring in everybody doesn’t mean we should bring in nobody.”
—Whitney Kimball, Shouldn’t Artists Benefit When Their Paintings Auction for Millions?

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