A bill called American Royalties Too Act is under consideration in the US Senate. If it becomes law, the act would require that artists receive 5% of the money from re-sales of their works, when that re-sale price at auction is over $5,000.
This bill is meant to ensure that artists, like painters and sculptors, share in the profits when their works skyrocket in price. One article written by the son of American painter Robert Rauschenberg and published by the Huffington Post explains the story of a painting that originally sold for $900 then went for $85,000 at an auction; the elder Rauschenberg saw none of the $85,000, even though he was a young and struggling artist at the time.
When I was interviewing Clark Walker for my 2009 book, I Just Make People Up, he brought up this issue several times. Clark’s paintings are often sold at gallery shows of new work for very reasonable prices – of which he receives a portion, less the gallery’s cut – but then the paintings get sold again for higher prices by the people who bought them new. Like Rauschenberg, Clark sees none of that re-sale money.
Even though it seems like common sense that the artist should share in the earnings when their works go up in value, a New York Times article from last March explains that the auction houses are fighting this bill.
Please call or write to your US senators and ask them to support the American Royalties Too Act, because 5% is not too much to ask of buyers and auction houses who are making money off other people’s creative labor.