En­sur­ing artists are com­pen­sated fairly

Cur­rently, artists in South Africa are only paid once – when their works are sold for the first time. As­pire Art Auc­tions is try­ing to ad­dress this is­sue.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY - By Jo­han My­burg

whenMary-Jane Dar­roll and Ruarc Pef­fers an­nounced their As­pire Art Auc­tions in June last year, they were adamant that the art-auc­tion­ing in­dus­try had to be re­vived: as far as the auc­tions’ for­mat was con­cerned and also in re­spect of the role played by the sec­ondary mar­ket in the art world.

If you talk about things that you still want to do, you are usu­ally ex­tremely gen­er­ous. Just like pa­per, the fu­ture is pa­tient and talk is cheap, as the say­ing goes.

En­sur­ing artists are paid their dues

In the case of As­pire Art Auc­tions, its first auc­tion in Jo­han­nes­burg in Oc­to­ber gave ex­pres­sion to both prospects as Dar­roll and Pef­fers put it. With re­gard to the auc­tion for­mat, they came up with re­fresh­ing in­sights in terms of presentation – as far as the cat­a­logue is con­cerned as well as the space within which and the way the works are ex­hib­ited – and in re­spect of the auc­tion as an arena for sec­ondary sales, they made the ex­pres­sion droit de suite part of the vo­cab­u­lary used in art auc­tions in South Africa.

Not of­fi­cially, as there is no leg­is­la­tion in South Africa at the mo­ment gov­ern­ing artists’ rights to a share of the re­sale of works of art – the so-called Artist Re­sale Right (ARR), also known as droit de suite (right to fol­low). This pro­vi­sion, which forms part of the Berne Con­ven­tion and pro­tects the copy­right on lit­er­ary and art works, of­fers artists and their heirs the right to a share of the amount paid when an orig­i­nal work of art is sub­se­quently resold, in­clud­ing on auc­tion. This right is recog­nised in more than 70 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the UK, the EU and Aus­tralia.

“We did it with­out leg­is­la­tion, with­out any ex­ist­ing guide­lines for South African con­di­tions and with­out any obli­ga­tion,” says Pef­fers about this pi­o­neer­ing step, “be­cause we are con­cerned about the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the South African art mar­ket.”

The amounts As­pire started pay­ing to liv­ing South African artists are not only an in­vest­ment in the in­dus­try, but also an ad­mis­sion of the value of artistry and sup­port for artists.

At the mo­ment in SA, only the artists them­selves gain from the im­me­di­ate (pri­mary) sale of their works (such as through a gallery). Should the value of the piece in­crease over time as the artist’s ca­reer de­vel­ops and the piece is sold on auc­tion, the artist does not share in this fi­nan­cial gain at all.

“It’s only right that artists should share in this suc­cess,” says Pef­fers. “And this is to en­sure that artists con­tinue do­ing what they do, so that they, for ex­am­ple, do not have to seek a liveli­hood at the age of 40 in ad­ver­tis­ing or in the movie in­dus­try. It has to do with the sus­tain­abil­ity of the arts.”

“We are con­cerned about the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the South African art mar­ket.”

How are artists com­pen­sated else­where?

It was for this rea­son that the droit de suite con­cept was in­tro­duced in France in 1893 and later in Europe to ac­com­mo­date “strug­gling artists”. In France, laws were passed in this re­gard in 1920, and in 2001 the EU legally adopted these pro­vi­sions and ex­tended them to the eu­ro­zone.

The EU’s ac­cep­tance of this leg­is­la­tion elicited wide re­ac­tion, with op­po­si­tion from es­pe­cially the Bri­tish auc­tion houses and gal­leries who be­lieved this would dam­age Bri­tain’s rep­u­ta­tion as a

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