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Visual artists miss out on Resale Right payments at spring auctions

Thursday, May 24, 2012 – Artists will miss out on profits made on their work at three major auctions at Sotheby’s, Heffel, and Joyner Waddington’s this month. Many of these artworks have increased in value over time and are expected to sell at a significant profit – from which the artists will not receive a dime. The Canadian and Quebec associations of visual artists (CARFAC & RAAV) have requested that government address this discrepancy by adding the Artist’s Resale Right to the Canadian Copyright Act as has been done in 59 other countries.

The Artist Resale Right (ARR) would entitle artists to receive 5% from subsequent public sales of their work through auction houses and commercial galleries. It is common for visual art to appreciate in value over time, as the reputation of the artist grows.

An auction held at Heffel on May 17th resulted in $914,940 in sales by 13 living Canadian artists. If Canada had an Artist’s Resale Right of 5% the artists would have received a combined total of $45,732. There will also be auctions held on May 24th at Sotheby’s, and May 25th at Joyner Waddington’s. These sales are expected to top $383,000 and $179,500 respectively, for work by living Canadian artists, and would have earned Canadian artists approximately $19,150 and $8,975 if the Artist’s Resale Right existed in Canada.

For example, Gordon Applebe Smith had six paintings sold at the Heffel auction. White Painting #2 sold for $70,200 and Houlgate Creek sold for $64,350. If Canada had the Artist’s Resale Right of 5% he would have received $13,337.74 for his six paintings. Landing by Christopher Pratt sold for $198,900. If Canada had the Artist’s Resale Right he would have received $9,945 for this painting.

Other notable living Canadian artists involved in the sales include, Daphne Odjig (Penticton, BC), David Blackwood (Port Hope, Ontario), Michael Snow (Toronto), Kent Monkman (Toronto), Alex Coleville (Wolfville, Nova Scotia), and Claude Tousignant (Montreal, QC).

“[The Artist’s Resale Right] is a wonderful way for artists to benefit from their hard work and dedication to, in many cases, their life’s work,” said Daphne Odjig. “In my case it was not until later in life that I have achieved a semblance of success, and at 92 yrs of age and surviving on a small pension and returns on dwindling investments it would definitely have been helpful to have had a small stream of extra income.”

CARFAC and RAAV continue to meet with members of Parliament in an effort to have the Artist’s Resale Right added to the Copyright Act. The reception continues to be positive but they are still waiting for a commitment on the part of the government.

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