Christie's contemporary head Brett Gorvy on artists' royalties
The Times could not reach Christie's and Sotheby's on Tuesday in time for our first report on the class-action lawsuits brought against them by artists who are seeking resale royalties for their work as provided under a 1977 California state law. But Wednesday morning we received the following comments.
A Sotheby's spokesperson said: "We believe that we have meaningful defenses to the claims asserted, and they will be vigorously defended."
A Christie's spokesperson said: “Although Christie’s has yet to be served with the complaint, it views the California Resale Royalties Act as subject to serious legal challenges. Christie’s looks forward to addressing these issues in court.”
Christie's declined to answer more specific questions, including one about whether artists who have work in the upcoming sales of material owned by software magnate Peter Norton -- whose foundation and collections manager are based in Santa Monica -- would receive the 5% resale royalty for their qualifying sales.
But in May 2010, Christie's Brett Gorvy, now the house's international post-war and contemporary head, did answer questions about the contemporary art going up for sale in the Michael Crichton estate. Assuming the Crichton estate was based (like the producer and writer himself) in California, would artists with works in the sale, such as Jasper Johns, have to be paid a resale royalty?
Here was his response, not previously published:
"I’m not sure. It’s not something that normally comes into being. The language of the California resale act is not exactly that clear. It’s not something which we have had much experience with."
He added: "I can tell you only from experience, we’ve yet to have a situation where this has actually been required to be paid."
-- Jori Finkel
Image: Christie's L.A. preview of the Peter Norton material showing work by Paul McCarthy and Jim Hodges. The material will be sold Nov. 8 and 9 in New York. Credit: Christie's 2011