On March 24, the court of appeals in Versailles said that, according to the wording of the French law – which states it is a charge on the seller – Droit de Suite should be paid by the vendor ‘without exception’.
Christie’s had sought to challenge this in 2009 when at the Yves Saint Laurent sale it demanded buyers pay the resale rights owed to contemporary artists.
However, the firm reverted to the old reading of the law in 2010 after a legal challenge by the Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art (CPGA) and Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA) against Christie’s.
The associations claimed Christie’s was gaining a competitive advantage by seeking to charge buyers rather than sellers. The matter has been considered by several courts since 2011.
The most recent ruling could have an impact, not least because hundreds of past sales could be affected.
There is the prospect, at least, that in France buyers who paid the levy at Christie’s could now ask to be refunded and vendors charged instead.
Christie's is expected to challenge the ruling in the high court in France.
Droit de Suite, a law in place in France since the early 20th century, gives artists and their estate a commission each time a work is resold.
The UK equivalent was introduced after an EU directive in 2001. In Britain, the choice of whether to charge buyer or seller is left to the company in charge of the sale.