Whatever one thinks of Charles
Blackman’s abilities as a painter, his impoverishment after a prolific
and high-profile career is a classic example of the need for a resale
royalty scheme so that artists can benefit from the rising price of
their work long after they created it.

A system whereby an
artist would get a small percentage of the price of an artwork every
time it is sold on the secondary market was being considered by the
Howard Government, but as Crikey reported on 12 May, the plan was
ditched after strong lobbying from Michael Kroger acting as a paid
consultant on behalf of the big auction houses.

After a lifetime
of alcoholism and a series of failed marriages, Blackman can’t afford
to own any of his pictures which now sell for six figure sums. He lives
in rented accommodation in Sydney and is looked after by carers who are
paid out of a small trust fund established by his accountant (he
happens to be my accountant too).

If moneyed speculators can
cash in on the rising value of art, it’s not unreasonable that artists
should be entitled to a slice of the action. After all, the object
would be nothing more than a bit of canvas and paint if it weren’t for
the artist’s creative input.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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