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  • Mitchell Krieger

Why do visual arts sell their works outright?

As I read a Times article about the super-rich controlling big museums (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/14/opinion/sunday/modern-art-museum.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Sunday%20Review), it struck me that painters, sculptors, etc. are letting their creations be taken completely from them, as opposed to composers, authors, theatre and film directors. Write a song? You sell it, but you (usually) retain the rights, or some percentage thereof. Write a book? Again, your deal is usually a fee against royalties, and some percentage of ancillary rights.


But paint a painting, and you simply sell it. Van Gogh died in near-poverty; how many millions would it take to buy a Van Gogh today?


Perhaps some well-known artists cut deals like this already. But up-and-coming and unknown artists need to get together and create a new normal, where you sell a sculpture or painting, and retain some share when other people make money from it, through resale or public display. The super-rich can afford it.


Does an organization exist like ASCAP that is working for the rights of visual artists? I'd love to hear from anyone who knows about it.

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