Johannesburg, May 8 2017: Innovative South African art auction house, Aspire Art Auctions, was the only local representative contributing to a recent one-day global summit in Geneva, on the subject of Artist’s Resale Rights (ARR).
Hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), partly at the instigation of the governments of Senegal and the DRC, the conference was aimed at a better understanding of the application,management and reception of ARR around the world. Participants included policy makers, collective rights management organisations, artists and members of the private sector in the art industry, including galleries, curators and auction houses.
Currently, visual artists benefit from a legislated resale right, originally known as a droit de suite (literally, ‘right to follow’) in 80 countries around the world. The ARR provides an intellectual property right for artists to benefit via royalty payments on the sale of their works in the secondary auction markets, and through art galleries. In some countries the right extends to the estate, heirs and foundation of the artist, enabling a sustainable approach to the heritage of these particular artists.
Currently there is no legislative framework for ARR in South Africa. While royalty structures in some art forms exist – notably in music and literature, no such structure exists for the visual and plastic arts.
Louis Maqhubela | Exiled King | conté on paper | 130.5 x 95 cm | Image: Repro Pictures
The art world in South Africa has a strong, established secondary market, and an extensive corporate and private collection profile. Aspire Art Auctions launched into this market in 2016, with successful inaugural auctions in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This new player brings a skillset focused on primary and secondary markets in South Africa contemporary and modern historical art, and, says director Ruarc Peffers, were “from the outset committed to the economic sustainability of the art market. We’re motivated by a wish to improve the economic conditions of artists in the country and help keep them making art. Part of that wish is also a wish to contribute to redress and the structural inequality on racial lines that exists in South African art.”
Aspire introduced their own Artist’s Resale Rights effective immediately from its inaugural auction in Johannesburg in 2016. The in-house scheme offers a sliding scale of royalties on the current European model, and is only offered to living artists, not to estates, heirs or foundations.
“Unlike other countries, where collection agencies are established by law, Aspire absorbs the total cost of the undertaking,” explains Peffers. “It’s not enough in itself to sustain the market, but if other players follow there is a critical mass for artists and the whole art world, and to pressure government to provide an implementable legislative framework.”
Sixteen living artists benefited from Aspire’s inaugural auction, and forty from its recent second auction. “There’s no economic framework for the system here,” Peffers points out. “For there to be any semblance of equitable treatment, we have to self-regulate and implement a system that benefits artists and can help sustain their output.“
William Kentridge | Grande Jeté | charcoal and pastel on paper | 149 x 101.5 cm | Image: Repro Pictures
The effect on artists of an established ARR scheme is clear. Previously exiled South African artist Louis Maqhubela, on hearing that Aspire’s ARR would produce royalties on the sale of his work, commented “your e-mail was like a whisper from the 'Old Ones' - a grand affirmation of ethical market practice, goodwill and generosity that really made my day.”
The Conference delegation in session in Geneva | Image: World Intellectual Property Organization
Upcoming Auction| 17 July 2017
The Park House of Events on 7 | Hyde Park Corner | Johannesburg
Consignments close 19 May 2017
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