Is the Australian resale royalty scheme benefiting indigenous artists?
Driving force behind the bill was to improve welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists
By Elizabeth Fortescue. Web only
Published online: 19 July 2013
Australia’s artist resale royalty scheme, which came into effect in June 2010 and is currently being reviewed, seems to be offering increased protection to indigenous artists, with 60% of the artists who have been paid royalties being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Indeed, one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill was to improve the welfare of indigenous artists. In 2008, when the bill was passing through parliament, Peter Garrett, then the minister for the environment, heritage and the arts, said that “introducing the [resale] right will significantly increase the transparency of the art market, which, of course, is particularly important for indigenous artists, who have sadly continued to be exploited by some unscrupulous dealers.”
Although the Aboriginal art market is estimated to be worth A$200m ($186m) a year, indigenous artists have not traditionally seen their share of the wealth. For example, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s Warlugulong, was reportedly bought for A$1,200, but in 2007 it went for A$2.4m ($2.2m) at Sotheby’s in Melbourne, an auction record for an indigenous work.
Despite the fact that 60% of artists being paid royalties since June 2010 are indigenous, there are concerns that the scheme only offers benefits to the most successful artists and their estates. There are also fears that the commercial aspect of the scheme—artists are entitled to 5% of the resale price of eligible works of art sold commercially for A$1,000 or more—overlooks art centres that are owned by indigenous communities.
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