The Wall Street Journal has a cute story about the repercussions of the state’s law requiring artists to receive a portion of work’s sale value. In the accompanying list, artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Michael de Suvero are listed. Ooops.
When a work of art is resold in the state, or by a California resident, the seller must set aside 5% of the gross selling price to pay the artist. The law applies to any resale of $1,000 or more within 20 years of an artist’s death, so long as the sale isn’t between dealers.
In theory, the law is a boon for artists. In practice, it means Ms. Milich sometimes must spend months trying to deliver paltry sums to people who have faded into obscurity, moved abroad or simply don’t want to be bothered. [ . . . ]
Some to whom she has funneled royalty payments include big names like conceptual artist John Baldessari. Others, including the estate of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, are due cash but haven’t responded.
The payments can run into the tens of thousands of dollars but usually are more modest, about $300 to $400, Ms. Milich says. Galleries and dealers who can’t find the artists are supposed to send the cash to the Arts Council, which holds it in escrow while it tries to locate them. About $250,000 has come to the state agency to pass on to artists.
Millions more due artists may have leaked out of the system. Many buyers and sellers don’t know about the law; others simply ignore it. Some sellers deliberately pick locations outside California to sell their works in order to avoid paying the royalty, arts lawyers say.
Many artists whose names Ms. Milich receives are tracked down after a quick database search. About one-third of the cases require work that can go on for months.
The list of artists California is “looking for” is below:
Robert de Niro, Sr.
Mark di Suvero
William Ballantine Dorsey
John Raymond Henry
Matsumi (Mike) Kanemitsu
Robert Craig Kauffman
Sally Michel Avery
Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer
Fritz William Scholder
Stephan von Huene
Donald Roller Wilson
The Case of the $80 Royalty Check: A Mystery for Patty Millich, Art Sleuth (Wall Street Journal)
Attention: Looking for Artists (California Arts Council)