Friday, August 05, 2011

A Small Clarification for the Record

I'm quoted in an article by Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper on the lobbying underway in the US Congress to push for droit de suite to become federal law:

Dealers also oppose the measure. [...] Others argue that the tax is inconsistent. Although some 50 countries have a resale tax, they adhere to different rules. The EU states follow a sliding scale of 4% to 0.25%, capped at €12,500. Australia allows a flat, uncapped royalty of 5%, but exempts the first resale of the work. “It will just lead collectors to resell their art in other jurisdictions,” said dealer Edward Winkleman.

Feder calls this claim “an old canard. That was also said in the 1990s, and was an argument used by the auction houses when they adopted droit de suite in the UK. Far from business fleeing…UK auctions have increased and [are now] a very vibrant market.” But the debate in Britain has reignited as the country nears the 2012 deadline when it must extend droit de suite to cover artists' heirs or estates up to 70 years after their death.

I fully understand how articles are assembled from various quotes and the impossible deadlines that most writers are working under these days, and I understand that there's nothing particularly damning about the way my quote is presented here, but given that I am on record (in The Art Newspaper itself no less), as supporting droit de suite in the US, and given the way this quote makes it sound as if I don't support it, I'd like to print the full quote I emailed to Helen when she asked me to comment on the lobbying effort:
There are reasons to oppose droit de suite; with the two most convincing being that it will just lead collectors to resell their art in other jurisdictions, and it is perhaps an over-engineered response to the myth of the starving artist. But the lack of resale rights in the US has led to all manner of resentments, especially among artists, who often sacrifice a great deal to achieve a level of financial success in their careers. Perhaps even worse than such resentments, though, are the convoluted, covert practices (such as secret black lists) used to try to discourage the selling practices that droit de suite would make much more welcome in the eyes of artists.
I think it's more than fair to argue that what I offered is not a "convincing" reason to oppose droit de suite, but it's not accurate to present my quote out of context such that it presents my opinion as opposite what it actually is.

Other than that, I enjoyed the article.

Labels: commentary, resale right


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked this comment from the original post "In the UK nearly 50% of all of the money collected has been paid to just 20 individuals. These type of schemes impose considerable transaction costs upon the art market in which artists seek to earn a living. Therefore they effectively transfer income from the weakest participants in the market (ie. emerging and unknown artists) to the famous and dead and the collection societies "

8/05/2011 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger bgfa said...

My opposition to this type of law is based in a basic fact of commerce; why should art be treated differently than any other commodity? When an item changes hands the purchaser in the new owner and assumes the right to the object.

The artist continues to own reproduction rights to any work; their intellectual property is protected (unless they explicitly give up those rights for a separate fee from the sale of the work itself). Providing for a cut of subsequent resale is counter intuitive; does the artist not profit from the initial sale, and provided their work increases in value, for all subsequent primary market sales at the higher prices? Smart artists hold onto key works as a future hedge, and sell them later at much higher prices.

Adding additional costs to future transactions could act as a disincentive to resales, causing, as the article speculates, a net benefit for only the top of the market, and depressing prices for emerging and unknown works.

Maybe there is a side to this that I don't see here, but it really makes no sense to me.

8/07/2011 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

@ bgfa: what you say makes perfect sense. The first sale doctrine is a good thing for so many reasons. I always think of the used book market in connection to this discussion, its overarching benefit to readers and sellers alike, and what would happen to it -- the farce! -- if one suddenly had to start paying resale royalties..... This all sounds more and more like a scheme to buy time (relevance) for the old school collection agencies like ARS, which would be able to position themselves as essential cogs in the droite de suite bureaucratic process....

8/08/2011 12:29:00 PM  

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