Montreal-based copyright collective, SODRAC (The Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada), invited former Inuit Art Foundation President Mattiusi Iyaituk to present at the International Conference on Artist’s Resale Right, hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 28, 2017. The roundtables, co-organized by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, brought together artists from around the world to discuss copyright and artist resale rights.
The Artist Resale Right (ARR), first implemented in France in 1920 and subsequently adopted by several European countries, entitles visual artists to a percentage of the sale price each time their work is resold through an auction house or commercial gallery in order to share in its ongoing commercial success. In Canada, the Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective (CARCC) founded in 1990 by CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens), has been advocating to include it in Canadian copyright policies, which could be implemented as early as 2018. Iyaituk’s participation at the WIPO marks an important opportunity for Inuit artists’ voices to be included in these global conversations.
Iyaituk spoke on the panel “The Importance of Artist Resale Rights,” which included artists Julio Carrasco Breton (Mexico City, Mexico), Romuald Hazoumé (Porto-Novo, Benin) and Richard Wentworth (London, United Kingdom), and was moderated by the Cultural Editor of France 24, Amobé Mévégué. Iyaituk remarked during his talk that his “heart almost broke” when he was asked to participate in the conference because he was so happy to be included in the discussions. He began his presentation by describing his trajectory as a sculptor and how he became aware of resale rights through his work advocating for artists at the Inuit Art Foundation. He spoke in favour of artist resale rights arguing that artists should receive a payment every time an artwork sells for more than what it originally sold for.
Iyaituk recalled a time when he sold a work for $250 and later saw it for sale in a gallery for $5000. He remembered feeling as though he should be paid more for this difference in price. Fortunately, even without the artist resale right active in Canada, when Iyaituk followed up with his local co-op, there was a payment waiting for him. However this is not the standard and Iyaituk believes that, “if we could get all the world to have the resale right active in their country…all artists would benefit from this.”
As the IAQ has previously reported (“CARFAC and ADAC Debate Artist’s Resale Right“, Inuit Art Quarterly 28.3-4, p. 7), the Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC) counters that ARR would force much of the resale market out of Canada, specifically to markets where there is no national resale right including the United States, or underground to private sales at a time when the national art market remains less than stable. “If [the market] was fragile six years ago, it’s even more fragile now particularly in the context of the Inuit art market that is facing an aging collector base,” explains Elca London gallerist Mark London, who is a board member of ADAC and sits on the ARR committee for the organization. In a 2008 study by Tony Froschauer, cited in ADAC’s Position Paper on Artists’ Resale Rights in Canada, the author outlines that the intended benefits of ARR will only apply to established artists and not the emerging artists it purports to help. London agrees and further notes that the current Canadian Artist Resale Right proposal fails to address some of complex issues facing Inuit artists in particular, namely the conditions that warrant a resale (under the co-operative model currently utilized by the majority of Inuit artists, by the time a work reaches a private buyer it has, in fact, been purchased three times, first by the co-operative distributor, followed by the commercial gallerist and finally the consumer) and how works with no or contested attribution would be handled. “There has to be a way to help artists in a more direct way,” states London. “ARR is not that.”