Reg Mombassa, famous for his Mambo imagery and his band Mental As Anything, is one of 70 artists who have written to Arts Minister George Brandis imploring him to support the retention of the royalty scheme that gives artists five per cent of the sale price when their work is re-sold.
“I think it’s a great scheme,” he said.
“It should definitely be retained because it’s very unfair for artists, particularly if they’re young or for Aboriginal artists, as they often sell their work for very small amounts and then it gets traded for huge amounts.”
Mombassa says he has received small payments of $100 to $150 through the scheme.
“I still appreciate it. Any trickle of money from anywhere is valuable,” he said.
He compares it to writers and musicians receiving royalties.
“Musicians do get royalties and that’s a fantastic way of earning a bit more of a living. It’s often a struggle for them too,” he said.
It took 20 years of campaigning to introduce the scheme, and in its first four years 820 artists benefited through the resale of 8,000 paintings and artworks generating more than $2.2 million.
“I think the scheme has gone beyond my imagination to think it’s got to more than $2 million and will just accelerate as people get used to it,” Bronwyn Bancroft from the Copyright Agency, which administers the scheme, said.
“It’s just starting to get a life of its own and it will really help artists.”
Scheme should be rethought: galleries
But galleries and auction houses have a different view.
Anna Pappas from the Australian Commercial Galleries Association says the administration is very complex and believes the scheme should go back to the drawing board.
“Overall the five per cent is not the breaker in the deal,” she said.
“I think it’s what goes with it that is problematic. Galleries do a lot more than 5 per cent for the artists and we assist their careers for many years.”
She said that since the scheme’s introduction, many galleries have stopped buying the work of emerging artists.
“They don’t deal in the secondary market at all and that has very long-term consequences for artists’ careers,” she said.
Senator Brandis has yet to signal what action he will take, if any, to change the legislation.