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The European Round Table of Art Market Organisations*, who met in London on April 15, want the EC to wait until other non-EU nations with significant art markets, such as the United States and Switzerland, agree to introduce the levy as well.

At the moment, the UK will introduce the first part of the levy – applicable on the resale of fine art, sculpture and other works of art for the benefit of artists – on January 1 next year. At that stage it will only be payable on eligible works created by living artists. After 2012, this will be extended to works where the artist has been dead for less than 70 years. Studies have shown that eligible works in the latter category make up 80 per cent or more of those affected by the levy.

The Round Table argue that delaying the extended measure indefinitely, pending the accession to Droit de Suite by other relevant nations, would greatly reduce the potential threat to the UK of business draining away to those markets where it does not apply. They say a delay would also be in line with EC policy, which states that every effort should be made to encourage non-EU markets to adopt the measure, and thereby harmonise the global marketplace.

Attempts by the European Commission to negotiate an agreement at international level on the levy have so far failed.

Loss of trade plus more red tape

“The decision to press ahead with this directive without any guarantee that countries outside the European Union will follow suit risks the loss from Europe of the market for the most valuable works of 20th Century and Contemporary art,” argue the Round Table. “These in future are likely to be sold in New York or other countries outside the European Union where the resale levy does not apply.

“Furthermore, the directive will introduce added administrative and cost burdens on the art market, particularly on small businesses. This will effectively introduce a further distortion to the EU’s art market.”

The Round Table point out that the experience in the countries where Droit de Suite has already applied for a long period clearly reveals its detrimental effects on national art markets.

The gathering also agreed to promote independent research into the role played by collecting societies in the management of the resale right, a matter already being investigated at European level.

*The European Round Table includes representatives of art market organisations, auctioneers and dealers from Belgium and Luxembourg (UBEMA), France (SYMEV and SNA), Germany (DK and BDK), The Netherlands (Nedart), the United Kingdom (BAMF) and the International Art Dealers Association (CINOA).