Award-winning Brisbane Indigenous artist Vernon Ah Kee claims art dealers who have been campaigning against the resale royalty scheme do not have their artists’ interests at heart.
“Dealers who are against the scheme say it’s because of the layers of red tape involved but I think the main reason they are against the scheme is because it lends transparency to art market dealings – and takes control of artists’ lives out of their hands. Dealers like to have absolute control of the dollars.”
The Resale Royalty Scheme was introduced in 2010. It provides artists with ongoing rights in their work, so that they earn a 5% royalty when their work is resold if the sale is over $1000. According to the Copyright Agency, which manages the scheme, 50% of all royalties distributed so far ($2.29M) have gone to Indigenous artists. See www.resaleroyalty.org.au
The scheme is under review and artists are anxiously awaiting a decision from the Attorney-General George Brandis.
“Everything I have read about this scheme in the press, from the point of view of galleries, is ridiculous and laughable.
Mr Ah Kee said some art dealers’ practises were unfair. “Some of them don’t pay their artists – or they trade with them for payment. The resale scheme means they have to pay them money.”
Mr Ah Kee also said he was gobsmacked by a recent assertion by a high-profile artist that only “rich white artists” benefitted from the scheme.
Mr Ah Kee says “Many artists have absolutely no money, so whether it’s $50 [the minimum resale payment] or a larger amount, that money is a windfall for any artist – and it has been gained through their own efforts.”
“Receiving a cheque from a resale lends weight to an artist’s wellbeing. It gives them rights – they are being taken seriously. It means they are valued socially and culturally, and even politically.”
“The scheme needs to be given a chance to grow.”
Ah Kee is represented by Milani Galleries and says his dealer supports the royalty scheme because it genuinely helps artists.
Melbourne artist Juan Ford has also been vocal about the scheme, saying:
“Lost in the recent media hubbub is this simple fact: The Resale Royalty Scheme returns to the creator just 5% on the resale on the work they hold the copyright on. Similar licence fees are a standard component of countless other business, governmental and cultural transactions the world over. Why should the visual arts be any different?
“Should an artist feel guilty about making too much money from the 5% resale on their work, then they are free to donate it as they see fit; attempting to prevent other artists from receiving it because of this guilt is deeply irrational. Futhermore, claiming that the scheme hurts emerging artists’ sales also makes absolutely no sense. For 13 years I have derived my entire income from art; I can say with confidence that the resale royalty scheme has played no part in the art world’s post-GFC sales malaise. Attributing slow sales to the scheme is ludicrous and irresponsible.”
Brisbane artist Michael Zavros also lent his voice to the debate: “As a board member of the National Association for the Visual Arts but also as an artist who derives my sole income from sale of my work, I support the Resale Royalty Scheme.”
“The scheme has achieved what it set out to do. The overwhelming majority of artists receiving royalties are Indigenous artists (over 65%). The assertion that it benefits rich white artists is a nonsense.”
Nearly 4000 artists and arts-lovers recently signed a petition calling for the retention of the scheme and 100 artists, including Reg Mombassa, Nicholas Harding, Arone Meeks, Jenny Fraser and Anthony Bennett mounted an exhibition called RIGHTNOW at the Boomalli Gallery in Sydney.
The petition has been delivered to Senator Brandis by the National Association for the Visual Arts. See the media release here: http://www.visualarts.net.au/news/signatures-support-rrs#more-540
 Vernon Ah Kee won the 2014 Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize in April for his charcoal drawing on canvas “Lex Wotton,” 2013. – See more at: http://au.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1025545/vernon-ah-kee-and-tom-polo-win-2014-redlands-konica-minolta#sthash.IzzqheOD.dpuf