TThis month, New Zealand artist Ayesha Green watched in surprise as one of her works of art fetched $ 48,000 at auction – $ 29,000 more than she’d sold just a year earlier. The hammer price was sizeable for an artist who describes herself as somewhere between aspiring and mid-career, and if the country had an artist resale licensing program, Green would have taken home a healthy paycheck to use in her practice.
But like all local artists whose works are sold at auctions, Green gets nothing.
New Zealand’s second art market is booming. In mid-November, Auckland’s Art + Object, where Green’s work was sold, had sales of over $ 15 million – the top-selling art auction in New Zealand history. Other a new record was set A Peak in Darien by artist Michael Parekōwhai sold for $ 2,051,900, making it the most expensive piece of art by an artist to sell at auction in New Zealand.
New Zealand has toyed with the possibility of a resale licensing system that pays artists a fee when their works are sold on the secondary art market. It was introduced in 2008 as an amendment to the Copyright Act but was dropped when the government changed hands. Since then, 20 more countries have introduced an artist licensing system, including Australia, which entitles artists to 5% of the retail price of eligible works of art resold for $ 1,000 or more. If New Zealand had the same system, Green would have pocketed about $ 2,400.
Green, who is descended from both the Ngāti Kahungunu and Kai Tahu tribes, has nothing against art auction houses, but said the problem was broader.
“Being an artist in New Zealand is really difficult and artists really have to fight for any kind of money that they can’t and should rightly get. I believe there should be kings. “
Auction houses should think about their responsibilities as part of “art ecology,” she said. “If artists can’t produce works, then then [the auction houses] will stop selling things and they will just sell the same things over and over again. “
“Not fancy and not unusual”
“Artists want to see change,” says Dane Mitchell, an artist and co-founder of the Equity for Artists collective.
He recently formed the collective with well-known artists Judy Darragh and Reuben Paterson, descended from Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe and Tūhourangi, to raise awareness of resale fees and better implementation of copyright royalties.
Building and maintaining a career as an artist in New Zealand can be difficult. The income is precarious and the chances slim. Green adds that if artists are no longer supported, it could lead to a very narrow art movement.
A resale license is not meant to be a panacea, but rather a vital tool in creating a fairer industry, Mitchell said. “Artists struggle to bring food to the table. That doesn’t go far to address that, but it is a social, ethical, and legal proposition to elevate artists. “
Copyright royalties when artwork is used in promotional materials are also rarely paid out and is another area that needs to be addressed, he said.
Just as musicians and writers receive royalties for their work, visual artists should continue to benefit from their intellectual property, Mitchell said, adding that the drive for justice should not divide.
“Auction houses are an important part of our culture, our ecosystem and this community, and I have a lot of respect for them … There is an incredible amount of work they do to bring the art to life in this country and yet they are somehow uninterested.” of us as artists, the producers of their culture. “
Leigh Melville, managing director of Art + Object, said a licensing system would be administratively complicated and less established artists would have very little return on sales.
“Big wins are very unusual in our small market… most of the time we’re not talking about big sums of money. This is the first time we’ve seen multi-million dollar transactions in an auction and that won’t happen for some time. “
Artists often benefit from the flow-on effects of large art auctions as the auctions increase interest in work and unsuccessful bidders look for artists through dealers, Melville said.
Ultimately, it will be up to the government to legislate on the matter, she said.
Covid-19 slowed the progress of a program, but the government remains committed to “evaluation” [its] Merits, “said the Minister for Art, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni. “We heard from the industry that there is great interest in a licensing program for the resale of artists.”
In order for artists to benefit from overseas auctions of their work, New Zealand must have a similar system. As part of the New Zealand and UK free trade agreements, a resale license system was agreed in principle.
“We will consider the issue of reciprocity in buying and selling New Zealand art in other countries as part of developing a potential licensing system for artist resale,” said Sepuloni.
What artists ask for is “not outlandish and not unusual,” adds Mitchell. “That actually brings us in line with international standard practice. Getting out of step in this way is actually a disadvantage for New Zealand artists who work internationally. “