Visual artists vie for cut of resale profits

Canadian visual artists are lobbying for an art resale law that would give creators a cut when their artworks are resold for high prices by auction houses and galleries.

Art resale rights law

10 years ago
Duration 3:16
Canadian artists hope for a right to a cut of the proceeds whenever their work is resold when Ottawa looks to amend the copyright laws in the new year 3:16

In 59 countries, artists receive a percentage from the sale of their artworks, each and every time they're sold — whether the sale takes place via auction house or commercial gallery. But Canada is not among those countries.

Now, as the fall auction season draws to a close, the national group representing Canadian visual and media artists is calling for the federal government to enact this type of legislation in Canada.

CARFAC (Canadian Artists' Representation/le Front des artistes canadiens) is lobbying the government to add an art resale right to the forthcoming amendments to the Copyright Act. The group is proposing that artists receive a five per cent royalty from all future resale of their work.

According to CARFAC Ontario vice-president Barbara Gilbert, an artist herself, creators are often caught in a difficult situation: they must sell their art to get it out into the market, but those works tend to dramatically appreciate in value only after the second or third resale.

"There's an Inuit artist who sold a work to a dealer for about $600 and it was recently sold at auction for well over $250,000," Gilbert told CBC News.

"Did he see any of it? Nope."

The proposed legislation will face challenges from the industry, according to Sotheby's Canada president David Silcox.

"You'll get a lot of resistance, I think, from dealers and auction houses. [They] will do it when the law says they must, but they're not going to volunteer it."