A.R.T. and Politics

As if our elected officials needed to make any more enemies, now they are trying to alienate visual artists through negligence and inaction on issues that are important to us. Even though proposed, the A.R.T. (Art Royalties Too) act will probably die in committee and has gotten one single legislative co-sponsor since its introduction in late February. In case you missed it – and who wouldn’t with the minimal publicity the issue has received –  S.2045 is a reasonable attempt to give visual artists a minimal 5% share of proceeds from auction resales over $5,000 for a work of art. Presently once an artwork is sold to a collector or gallery that is the end of any economic stake for its creator which means that rich collectors, galleries and the super rich auction houses are the only ones to profit from an artist’s subsequent increase in reputation and value of their art. Really, does that seem fair? I mean how many artists do you know that actually make a living making their art… and how many years of poverty, anxiety and dedication does it take for the few to get there? Shouldn’t artists be compensated for success? Predictably, powerhouse NY auction house Sothebys has mobilized its lobbyists and considerable economic leverage to kill the bill proposed on February 26 by Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and backed by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. The bill rests with the Senate Judiciary Committee and will certainly die there as a grand gesture of these two civil servants, snubbed by all their colleagues unless artists drown them in calls and emails to gain support and prompt it out of committee. The chairman is Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking member is Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Committee includes both senators from Texas and Minnesota. Here’s a link to all the members…  http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/members and a summary of the Bill… https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2045. The Congressional press release quoted Frank Stella as stating that visual artists are the only members of the American creative community who do not receive residual revenue on their work. That is true and not only that but American visual artists are also isolated internationally, being denied a right that European artists have long enjoyed –  the  ‘droit de suite’ (right to follow) first established in 1889 by France and adopted by the European Union in 2001. Australia also grants royalties to visual artists since 2009. California’s only attempt at royalties for visual artists was found to be ‘unconstitutional’ in 2011 for violating the Commerce clause and so a federal law like this one is required. This is protection long overdue to visual artists in the US – send your senators an email today!

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