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Instead, Commission ministers now say that they will simply note the effects once the measure has been formally adopted across all member states.

The UK, which secured a derogation limiting the Resale Right to living artists when it was adopted in 2006, is due to extend it to the estates of artists who have been dead for less than 70 years on January 1, 2012. At that point, artists such as Picasso, Bacon, Matisse, Moore and many other highly sought-after names will automatically qualify, leading to a far greater impact on the market than hitherto seen.

As British Art Market Federation chairman Anthony Browne told ATG: “The European Commission’s abandonment of its commitment to the UK art market is the equivalent of a doctor deciding to delay treatment until the patient has died.”

The announcement came in response to a question put by MEP Marianne Thyssen asking what the Commission had done about the study.

“Article 11 of Directive 2001/84/EC states that the Commission shall submit a report not later than 1 January 2009 on the implementation and the effect of this directive, paying particular attention to the competitiveness of the European market in relation to other markets that do not apply the resale right,” stated Mme Thyssen.

“Can the Commission confirm that it drew up such a report on 1 January 2009? If so, can it say what conclusions were reached? If not, does the Commission still intend to produce this assessment?”

In reply, the Commission now says that it will wait to look at the effects of the Resale Right until all member states have extended it to the estates of dead artists. As yet, Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands have not done so.

In effect, this means that while it has forced the UK to adhere to the letter of the directive, regardless of the effects it might have on the UK’s art market, the Commission feels no such duty to adhere to its own commitments under the directive.

By Ivan Macquisten