Once again there is a lot of discussion on whether an artist should be given a royalty or a percentage of the sales, when one of his artworks does exceptionally well during a resale, for instance, at an auction. There is mixed feeling towards this. While most artists feel that a certain percentage of the sale proceeds should be given to the respective artist, gallery owners and collectors feel that the issue is debateable. In practical terms it is very difficult to track each and every artwork that is sold or resold, unless it is at an auction. Art collector Harish Padmanabha asks, “when I invest in real estate and I sell the property a few years down the line, should I give a percentage of the profits to the previous owner?” He says that once an artwork leaves the studio, it becomes a commodity and gets bandied around in the market. An artist’s job should be to give vent to his creativity and give enjoyment to the viewer and himself. He brings out the point that when the artist is no more, who should benefit from the percentage? Therefore, it appears that implementing such a plan is full of loopholes. Artist Ravi Kumar Kashi also admits that the idea has its benefits, but wonders how the mechanism would really work in practical terms.
On the other hand, Indian artists who have struggled a lot in their career and have only now begun to make a mark at international auctions are unfortunately not getting any share of the proceeds. We have seen in the past that legends from the fields of music and sports have languished in abject poverty in their last days. One wonders, when the modern and contemporary Indian art market is thriving so well, is there a way to acknowledge the contribution of its key players? Giving a royalty to the artist may or may not be the answer, but a solution that aims at long term benefits rather than short-term gain is much needed.