United Kingdom

Letter to the editor—Drawbacks of droit de suite

The only people who would definitely benefit from extending droit de suite are the collecting societies, who reveal very little about how the money they receive is distributed

Rene Gimpel (see link left) suggests that it is shameful and inconsistent of the art trade to complain about droit de suite when we have not complained about rising VAT or auction house commissions. Of course, like most businesses, we are unhappy about the proposed rise in VAT but this is fixed government policy which affects all companies across the board and we are not in a position to influence its imposition. As for increased commissions, our representations to the auction houses have sadly landed on stony ground.

The issue of droit de suite and its extension to artists who have died in the past 70 years is quite different in that it does not reflect British government policy and is something we may still be able to influence. The impact of droit de suite on the art market has been limited so far by the fact that it is restricted to the work of living artists. Our concern is that if it is extended at a time when it does not apply at all in the USA or new emerging art markets such as China, it risks seriously damaging our market in a way which will adversely affect auctioneers, dealers and artists alike.

The art trade has always had the interests of artists as a primary concern and indeed we believe very strongly that their interests are closely bound up with our own. Both we and they live by selling art and depend upon a healthy art market to do so successfully. If our art market is damaged as a result of extending droit de suite, this will disadvantage artists to an extent which will far outweigh the small sums they may hope to derive from it, which on past experience are anyway likely to be largely restricted to a very small number of artists. Nor will artists, dealers and auctioneers be the only ones affected. Others such as packers, shippers, restorers, framers and all the ancillary firms which help to service the art trade are likely to be affected. A recent study estimated that about 66,000 jobs are involved in this. This is surely not the time to risk British jobs.

The only people who would definitely benefit from extending droit de suite are the collecting societies, who currently deduct 15% of the money raised while revealing very little about how this relates to their own expenses or how the money they receive is distributed.

—James Roundell, chairman, Society of London Art Dealers

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22 Dec 10
9:43 CET


The UK remains the only english speaking common law country to have introduced the nonsense of an 'individual' economic 'right' to which the individual right holder cannot say no. New Zealand scraped their scheme altogether, Canada has not proceeded , the US is unlikely and the Australian Scheme is not at all retrospective in application nor is it compulsory for artists . Retrospective violation of property rights and compulsory collective management are not compatible with the principles of a free liberal democracy. The UK's scheme is under Australia's constitution -- unlawful .

20 Dec 10
9:49 CET


The scheme is definitely tax-like. Firstly the scheme is ,for artists compulsory ,thus the payments made by artists to the costs of the management of the collection societies are mandated duty : a hypothecated tax to the costs of the collective managements that endlessly lobby for their right. Secondly: Applying the levy to the resale of art purchased well prior to public knowledge of the schemes future existence makes the payment of resale levies on these artworks a matter of mandated duty, you cannot go back in time and choose to not buy the artwork.

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