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Canadian visual artists miss out on $75,080 in Resale Right payments

Ottawa, Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 – Three auctions held in the last two weeks have resulted in $1,501,593 in sales of artwork by 32 living Canadian artists. Many people profited from these sales – everyone except the artists. 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. If Canada had an Artist’s Resale Right of 5% the artists would have received a combined total of $75,080.

For example, four pieces by Ontario artist and member of the Order of Canada, David Blackwood, sold at Joyner Waddingtons on Friday, May 25th. This includes the painting Ephraim Kelloways Red Door which sold for $64,900 – more than double the estimated sale price. If Canada had an Artist’s Resale Right of 5%, Blackwood would have received a total of $3717 in payments between the four sales.

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.

“Artist’s Resale Right is very, very important,” said Blackwood, “Canada should be the role model for artists’ rights.”

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.


The ARR was first introduced in France in 1920, and today, 59 countries world-wide have legislated this right, including the entire European Union. Initially, art market professionals in Europe were concerned about the impact of the ARR on the art market but an independent study in the UK in 2007 found that 87% of the art market declared they remained unaffected financially by the ARR since it was implemented in 2006.

In most countries, the Artist’s Resale Right ranges from between 2-5% of the resale price. By comparison, Canadian auction houses charge a commission of between 10 and 25% to sellers in addition to a 15-20% “buyers premium” that is added to the winning bid (the “hammer price”).

In a study conducted by the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1999, it was revealed that nearly 97% of secondary sales take place in major auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies, which are already experienced in dealing with the ARR in other countries.

Works by living Canadian artists that were resold (pdf)

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