UK Droit de Suite Comes Into Law

Do blue chip artists need more money? Emerging artists this Law excludes you!

In case you took your eye off the ball, while everyone was popping their Champagne or Prosecco corks at midnight 2012, the EU Droit de Suite Artist’s Resale rights came into effect, here in Britain. This is perhaps the most detrimental law, ever to be passed, since the UK was art market leader, back in the 1960’s -1970’s. At the beginning of 2011, the UK was the number two secondary market for Modern and Contemporary art, after the United States. It has since slipped into third place after China. British dealers and auction houses will now lose works of art to rival markets in New York, Geneva, Moscow and Hong Kong or wherever the European sales levy, known as Droit de suite is not implemented.
The Resale tax allows heirs of artists who died in the past 70 years to get a share in the resale of works of art. Under the legislation, art dealers and auctioneers will have to pay the heirs, or estates up to four per cent of the sale price of artworks over €1,000 (£840). Each time you bid on a lot covered by the ARR, you agree to pay an amount equal to the resale royalty, “if you are the successful bidder. This amount will be added to your invoice”,Our Conditions of Sale have been amended accordingly”; Christie’s have stated. The maximum amount payable is a hefty €12,500 on each lot purchased.

Following the introduction of the Artist’s Resale Right Regulations 2006, Sotheby’s and Christie’s decided an amount equal to the resale royalty will be collected from the buyer of a work of art covered by these Regulations. This will then be passed to the relevant collecting agency. This in principle sounds fine, but in real terms, the only ones who stand to profit are the super rich artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin or the elitist estates of Picasso, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. It is no wonder that Hirst has been throwing his weight behind this industry killing legislation.

Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation,stated “If [ARR] existed worldwide, you’d have a level playing field. But it doesn’t.” Artists’ representatives claim the royalty merely gives artists a stake in their work, just as copyright laws accord to authors or composers”.

In the bigger scheme of things, questions should be raised as to what this means for younger and mid-career artists. A composer receives a royalty when their work is played on the radio. A writer whose articles are reprinted is paid a fee. A painter whose work is re-sold at a profit, in the past, received nothing. All of this sounds fair if it is administered fairly. I just don’t believe it will be controlled in a fair way, that will benefit the struggling artists who need the money the most. This new collectors tax instead, will act as yet another deterrent to the collector, by discouraging them from buying and supporting emerging artists. If the collector decides to sell the work on through an auction or gallery He/She would be liable for up to 4% commission to the artist.

If you compare this to the music collection agencies, like PRS in the UK, it is unlikely that smaller artists will ever benefit from the ARR. The PRS chases the larger commercial radio stations but misses out on anything challenging or smaller. This is the same in Canada and the US. These agencies are always far more interested in the big named artists, as that’s where the money is. The artists that have achieved an international reputation and are already selling through Christie’s and Sotheby’s don’t need more money. I can guarantee that the new ARR agencies will only seek out the larger auction houses and secondary market dealers, which is where the big art names are traded. Do the estates or living blue chip artists need more money ? I doubt it. Struggle on young artists this new law excludes you!!!

Read what Damien Hirst has to say!

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