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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Krieger

Why do visual arts sell their works outright?

As I read a Times article about the super-rich controlling big museums (, 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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