Los Angeles, 3 November 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).
In the past few weeks, “Resale Royalties” are the subject of many court cases within the art market in United States. It is clear that it is more common for auction houses, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s to be involved in these cases, however this time round, galleries should also be concerned. The Sam Francis Foundation, which represents the works by the late abstract painter, has taken legal action against nine galleries who have “failed and refused” to pay overdue royalties. In fact, the California Resale Royalties Act of 1976, not only applies to living artists but also to people who have rights over late artist’s works, twenty years after their death.
The Sam Francis Foundation, created in 1994 soon after the artist’s death, is suing some of California’s most active galleries, in what are known as secondary-market sales: Manny Silverman, Ace, Leslie Sacks, Hamilton-Selway, Denis Bloch, Lora Schlesinger, Martin Lawrence and Hackett-Mill. Some galleries have spoken out about these claims in Los Angeles Times. Doug Chrismas of Ace Gallery denies the accusations as he states “all of the works we’ve sold were purchased directly from Sam or his estate”. Denis Bloch said, “I don’t see a reason for me to be sued by the foundation — I sell prints. Never in my life have I sold an ’original’ Sam Francis painting.”
The heavy media coverage focusing on the California law is believed to encourage other artists or their rights holders to claim their royalties, which are usually ignored by art market actors.