With art auctions having recently garnered much attention and higher-than-expected sales, the question on some
people's minds is whether or not the artist will/should get a commission from that sales. In the case of contemporary
art, I believe that whether or not an artist actually gets a commission is too hard to determine. State laws, ownership
issues, etc. all play into this. But, though the owner may get an instant monetary benefit, a living artist stands to
benefit for the rest of their career. Granted, auctions are tricky and sometimes things go for more than they should
but, in its essence, the market is determing the price. So though said collector will receive a onetime payment of
$500,000 the artist can now sell numerous works for around that price.
What led me to this topic was something that Sean sent my way about an
artist organization who wants to change the way art is
The mission of the prodigal art organization is to create a free flowing assimilation of art into society. We
believe this can be accomplished by reversing the way art is currently sold. Instead of artist's locating buyers of
their art, and charging that single buyer for everything the art encompasses, including time, materials, marketing
and storage, artist's choose to give the art away for free. Then, whenever the art is sold in the future, 50% of the
profit collected from that sale is sent back to the artist. This process is expected of anyone else down the line
that owns and sells the art for profit.
If you read the rest of their statement you'll realize that there are many loop-holes in this mission. One, they
aren't factoring in a gallery at all which means that they aren't artists on a gallery-representative level. Second, if
it's an artist selling the work why would you rather take the change of maybe seeing a 50% return years from
now rather than a 100% return now? And if you'd take the 50% why aren't you showing with a gallery who's job it is to
sell/promote your art? Third, art has value. Yes, it should be enjoyed and I guess if you're never going to sell or try
to sell anything having it up in someone's living room for free might be satisfying but it just seems a little sad to
give it away. Fourth, if you're that concerned about the resale, why don't you have the collector sign something
upfront that states that if they ever re-sell your piece, you get a commission? And finally, I don't believe that art
that won't sell and is being given away for free will likely ever see the secondary market.