It seems this good-news budget has provided ideal cover to sneak through a
bit of bad news. Well, it’s bad news for visual artists but good news for art auction
houses.

The Government had for some time been making positive noises about
introducing a resale royalty scheme for artworks so that artists could benefit
from the rise in value of their work on the secondary art market. Buried in the
avalanche of paper issued on Budget night was the news that the resale scheme
has been abandoned.

The scheme, recommended several years ago by Rupert Myer’s inquiry into the
visual arts, would have given artists a small percentage of the price of an art
work every time it was resold.

The auction houses weren’t happy about the idea as it would have further
eroded the vendor’s take on the sale of work – and the vendor’s take is eroded
enough as it is because of the big commissions, totalling up to 30%,
that the auction houses pocket.

It’s worth noting that the treasurer’s close ally, Michael Kroger, is
on the board of emerging auction powerhouse Deutscher-Menzies and
Crikey understands he was
retained by the auction houses to prepare a submission and lobby in
Canberra on their behalf. (We contacted his office this morning but he
was overseas and unable to comment.)

The National Association of the Visual Arts is fuming over the Government’s
about-face, particularly when a resale scheme wouldn’t have cost taxpayers a
cent. It would have been a classic user-pays initiative but the users in this
case aren’t the kind of people Canberra wants to get off-side.

In a statement, NAVA’s executive director Tamara Winikoff said: “After
patiently asking for fifteen years, artists in Australia are saddened
and perplexed about why the Government will not grant them a royalty
right comparable with that enjoyed for so many years by writers and
musicians”.

One industry insider who refused to be named was more pointed:
” I guess this result was pretty much guaranteed, but
we had hoped that intelligence and ethics would prevail – silly us.”

Peter Fray

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