Mohau Modisakeng: Ditaola XV.
Mohau Modisakeng: Ditaola XV.

When Aspire Art Auctions broke into the tight SA market late last year it was with a commitment to do things differently. And the latest move will certainly shake up a complacent industry.

Aspire is the first auction house in history to pay living SA artists royalties on the resale of their works.

The issue of artist resale rights has long been in discussion. There was even talk that parliament was considering legislation. But there has been no movement on it.

Ruarc Peffers, senior art specialist at Aspire, says ethics played a big role in the auction house’s decision to invest “back into the industry”.

Deborah Bell: See-Line Woman Dressed in Red, Makes her Man Lose his Head.
Deborah Bell: See-Line Woman Dressed in Red, Makes her Man Lose his Head.

While the issue of artist resale rights is new to SA, it is strong in Europe. In 2013 £8.4m was paid in royalties to more than 1,400 registered artists and their estates.

Depending on the price the artwork sells for, anything from 0.25% to a ceiling of 4% of the sale price is paid to the artists or their estates, with the cost split between the buyer and the seller.

Because there is no legislation to guide the SA process, the royalties paid to living artists will be covered solely by Aspire Art Auctions.

Peffers says they hope this will encourage other auctions houses to follow suit, but none has done
so as yet.

He says royalties were paid after the first auction last October and that they will pay royalties to artists including Mohau Modisakeng, Wim Botha, Deborah Bell and William Kentridge, whose works will go under the hammer on March 27 in Cape Town.

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