Secondary Art Market Shake Up by Australia's Largest Online Gallery

Freddy Grant | 15-Sep-2021
Survey of 1,000 top selling Australian artists reveals the Resale Royalty Scheme leaves 99% out in the Cold, while Australia’s arts sector is decimated by the latest Covid shutdown. Enter Bluethumb.
Secondary Art Market Shake Up by Australias Largest Online Gallery
Bluethumb Co-Founder and Managing Director Ed Hartley admiring NATSIAA Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award winner Through the veil of time by Bluethumb artists Hubert Pareroultja and Mervyn Rubuntja at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT
Australia’s Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Act 2009 is being given a boost thanks to a survey conducted by Bluethumb, Australia’s largest online art gallery, to its 1,000 top selling artists.

Under the Resale Royalty Scheme, visual artists and other right-holders are entitled to 5% of the sale price of eligible artworks resold commercially for $1,000 or more.

The survey, conducted in May 2021, asked artists if they had ever received the resale royalty. 98.5% of respondents had not, despite 33% either knowing or thinking it is likely their art has been resold. These artists have sold over $20,000,000 of art through Bluethumb alone.

“I'm not sure how you are ever going to track this,” said one respondent. “Unless a copy of each original transaction is entered into a database somewhere – to my knowledge there isn't one – there is no way of knowing where original artwork ends up, especially with people able to sell on pretty much unregulated platforms like Ebay or Marketplace – let alone just actual markets.”

“It's impossible to know if you're due royalties if there's no way of monitoring potential resale,” said another. “For example, a framer in the country bought a few of my artworks and I'm pretty sure he was framing them and reselling – but how would I ever know?”

Furthermore, a new report by Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has found Australia’s arts sector is being decimated by the latest Covid shutdown and won’t survive without government help. The report says it is time for nothing less than a “total public-led reboot” of the ways in which the government thinks of and funds the arts. “The federal government has not adequately responded to the scale and severity of the crisis gripping the arts and entertainment sector.”

Enter Bluethumb, known for investing in building technology and opportunities that improve the lives of Australian artists and Australia’s arts ecosystem.

“It's like the billions of dollars of lost super,” says Edward Hartley, Bluethumb’s Co-Founder and Managing Director. “99% of Australian artists are being left out in the cold. Why shouldn't they be able to claim these funds they're owed, especially during these difficult times, and without the grey areas and red tape? We’ve been working hard to come up with a solution that will benefit all Australian artists, not just the 1%.”

Bluethumb’s Simple and Transparent Solution: The Podium

The Podium is Bluethumb’s simple, no-fuss marketplace for collectors to resell artworks from their own collection. Any collector can apply to become a verified Podium Vendor to sell artworks they have previously purchased on Bluethumb and artists are able to see the resale of their works across Bluethumb’s platform. Not only that, they’ll receive a payment in the form of a generous 10% art resale royalty – that’s double what the government scheme offers – and they receive it regardless of whether a sale would meet the normal government eligibility criteria.

“I’ve always been impressed by the way Bluethumb invest in projects to help their artists build a career and income,” says Bluethumb artist and 5-time Archibald Prize finalist Kim Leutwyler. “Having a Bluethumb profile is a no-brainer for emerging artists. I’ve never had my art sold on the secondary market, and I'm excited to see the reaction from art collectors to the Podium.”

Existing collectors can resell their art to new collectors and artworks can easily be traced and verified as they move between collections, creating transparency and provenance. This allows Bluethumb to pay artists a royalty on their artwork every time it changes hands through their platform. By purchasing on The Podium you are helping artists make a living wage – and Bluethumb with their mission to empower Australia’s artists and open up the world of original art to everyday collectors.

“It could be a gamechanger for growing the secondary market and the process seems transparent and easy, building on all the great work the Copyright Agency has done over the last decade or so,” says Leutwyler. “I'll see my artwork is being sold and receive double the current royalty all through my Bluethumb profile, so no extra work for me and very straightforward to track.”

Building on the Copyright Agency’s Success

Operating since 2010, on the recent 11th anniversary of the Resale Royalty Right over $9.8 million in resale royalties had been generated by the scheme, giving 2,195 artists and estates one or more resale royalties. 80% of royalties were between $50 and $500 and 65% of the artists who have received a resale royalty are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, receiving 38% of the royalties.

“With over 15,000 Australian artists using Bluethumb and 50,000 artworks sold on our platform, many of those for less than $1,000, we’re finally opening up resale royalties to all Australian artists,” says Hartley. “Given JobKeeper hasn't been extended, we need to keep finding new ways to improve the status quo and help our nation’s creatives survive through these unprecedented times.”

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