Committed to the growth and development of the African art market, Aspire Art Auctions is the first and, to date, the only auction house in South African history to pay living South African artists royalties on the resale of their works of art on auction.
The implementation of the Artist Resale Rights (ARR) initiative is an investment back into the industry, acknowledging the value of authorship and ensuring support for artists. The inequality of artists only profiting from the initial sale is compounded when one considers the rise in value of an artwork over time, in relation to the growing success of the artist. The resale royalties endeavour to return some of that value to the artist.
Aspire’s vision places art, sustainability, and the development of the industry at its core. The sustainability of the practitioners and the professionals that have made this market what it is today forms the heart of this pioneering auction house. Whilst upholding the significance of established artists, Aspire is building a market for the future.
Across the world, artists, associations and collecting societies have been actively fighting, for decades, to achieve and implement resale rights. With the globalisation of the art market, this is a timeous and significant international trend.
The droit de suite (French for “right to follow”) was first proposed in Europe around 1893 to alleviate the plight of the ‘struggling artist’. Although not yet universal, ARR has been implemented in different forms in over 70 countries including France, Australia, and Russia. The European Union standardised its legislation in 2001, with the payment mandated to official collecting agencies, or paid directly to the artist. The EU directive was met with loud protestations from established UK auction houses and galleries, however in 2011 and in 2012 the European Commission and UK Parliament reported that the resale right does not impact the art market negatively. This report was followed up by the World Intellectual Property Organisation research in 2017, which corroborated that the payment of royalties on works at auction has no discernible impact on prices.
South Africa is one of a group of countries which has no existing legislation to govern the implementation of an ARR scheme. This group currently includes the USA, Canada, China, Japan, and Switzerland. The legislation in South Africa has been tabled, but the law is still in draft discussion form. Aspire was the only representative from the secondary market to submit representations to government on the public hearings for the draft legislation, and to appear before the parliamentary committee in 2017 to put forward the case for a national ARR.
The company has followed this representation with educational presentations to artist’s groups hosted by collecting agency DALRO, to an artist’s collective in Soweto, and is in active discussion with the DAC regarding progress on the existing legislation. These initiatives are undertaken to spread the word in the artistic community that the ARR project does exist in the auction market. With little opportunity for funding in the arts, the profound social inequalities of South Africa seem particularly magnified in the sector. In the absence of legislation or a government mandated collecting agency, Aspire voluntarily covers the cost of the ARR percentage fee.
To date, Aspire has earned royalties for over 100 living South African artists through their sales, across the market spectrum, and has paid out around R600 000. Aspire’s efforts to improve the sustainability of the art industry in the country has been recognized at national level when the company won the Business Arts South Africa Best Strategic Project Award in 2017. Aspire is in the process of partnering with an arts-related charity, and will offer artists the option of accepting their royalties, or paying them into the nominated charity.
HOW IT WORKS:
|Portion of the Hammer Price||Royalty Rate|
|up to R100 000||1%|
|R100 000.01 to R500 000||0.5%|
|Over R500 000||0.25%|
- Minimum hammer price R50 000 (royalties are not applicable for lots sold under 50K).
- Royalties are capped at R5000 per lot.
- Royalties are restricted to South African taxpayers in an effort to grow and support the South African art economy.
- Aspire issues bi-annual royalty statements.
- Artists may choose to redeem their royalties or donate them to a charity Aspire will partner with.