Should artists whose works resell at prices astronomically higher than the original recoup some of the difference?
In a recent addition to the history of California’s resale royalty law, Los Angeles-based collector Dean Valentine has agreed out of court to pay royalties to Los Angeles-based artist Mark Grotjahn in a closely watched lawsuit, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Under the law, artists are due 5 percent of the sale price when collectors resell a work of art for more than $1,000, provided that the artist lives in or the transaction occurs in the state. The collector had previously defied the 1976 law: a jury trial was to begin in a few weeks. Valentine argued, unsuccessfully in the eyes of judges who ruled in previous stages of the case, that California collectors should not be burdened with the expense since no other U.S. state has similar statutes, though they are in effect in many other countries.
Grotjahn, whom collector Adam Lindemann described as the king of the hill among a school of “new minimalists,” told the Los Angeles Times last year that by his estimation, Valentine had made $3 million dollars by selling Grotjahn’s artworks. By that reckoning, Grotjahn will collect $150,000. Grotjahn is represented by Blum & Poe in Los Angeles and Gagosian in London.
California’s law also plays a role in three class-action suits brought late last year by artists including Chuck Close, Laddie John Dill and the estate of the sculptor Robert Graham. The suits are aimed at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and eBay for failure to pay royalties. “It’s a question of basic fairness,” Close told the New York Times. The law does not require the auctioneers to reveal the location of buyers, which obscures the question of whether royalties are owed.