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Old 03-18-2018, 10:38 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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UNITED KINGDOM
ARTISTS

https://www.theguardian.com/money/20...action-artists

Quote:
Artists in battle over modern artwork pension fund
The Artist Pension Trust, which holds one of the biggest collections of contemporary art in the world, is facing a legal bust-up
Spoiler:
unique initiative, designed to provide artists with a “pension”, is at the centre of a row after it emerged that some members have signed up to a group legal action in a bid to extricate themselves from the scheme.

Guardian Money understands several British artists are seeking the return of artworks they signed over to the scheme, whose website states it has around 2,000 participants worldwide, including Turner prize winners Jeremy Deller, Douglas Gordon and Richard Wright, and other well-known UK names such as Bob and Roberta Smith and David Shrigley. It’s the latest in a line of controversies to hit the Artist Pension Trust (APT) which, as the name suggests, was set up to provide artists – many of whom struggle to make a living, let alone plan for retirement – with some financial security in their old age.


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Founded in 2004, the APT works a bit like a co-operative. Instead of putting cash into a pension plan or Isa, the participants contribute pieces of their art, which are then put into storage and loaned out to exhibitions until the trust identifies the most profitable time to sell. The proceeds are then shared out among the artists. The theory is that because members receive a share of the sale of others’ work, it can help protect artists should the value of their own work plummet. Inevitably, the more successful artists end up subsidising less successful ones - or, as the APT puts it, “the big-name artists behind blockbuster shows can support the work of talented peers still gaining art world recognition”.

The APT has now amassed one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary art, made up of around 13,000 works, which is said to be growing by more than 2,000 pieces a year. How it works is that the artists contribute pieces over many years, and then these are gradually sold. Of the money raised from the sale of each piece, 40% goes to the individual who originally created the work, and 32% is shared out among the artists in that particular trust (there are eight regional trusts, plus a global one), based on the number of artworks they have deposited. The remaining 28% is retained by the APT to cover costs and make payments to its backers, who have provided more than $32m in funding – it’s a “for-profit” venture.

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The scheme was presumably set up to prevent artists living out the stereotype of ending up penniless and starving in a garrett - but it appears some of the participants now wish they had never got involved. Money understands that more than 20 UK artists are embarking on the group legal action because they are unhappy with the way the scheme is being run, and there has also been a bust-up in the US, with Los Angeles-based artist Kristin Calabrese telling us this week: “If they would let me out of the contract and give me my work back, I would happily accept.” This row has been brewing for a while: in April 2017 the Telegraph reported that 18 works in the APT collection – including pieces by Deller, Gordon, Wright and Shrigley – were pulled from a Sotheby’s contemporary art sale in London at the last minute. The MutualArt group, which includes APT, was reported as saying that the artists and their galleries took the view “that auction was not in their best interests ... some of the galleries said they could get better prices”. A subsequent news report on the website artnet claimed the move “puts a question mark over the ability of APT to manage its fund as it chooses”.

After this, APT changed its sales policy, but angered some members by proposing a storage fee – reportedly $6.50 (£4.65) a month for each work they want to store – prompting claims that the scheme had increasingly become about making money. Among those angry about the fee was Calabrese, who set up a Facebook group called APT Artist Solidarity, which claims to have 957 members. She says a New York lawyer “got APT to stick to the original contract here in the US, so I’m okay with it for now... [But] I feel like I was taken advantage of when they got me to sign up in the first place, back in January of 2006”. As a result of the row, this fee has now been put on ice.


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Now things have kicked off in London, where MutualArt is based (it gives its address as care of a company called Art Trading Services based in Covent Garden). One of those involved in the group action says legal advice had raised concerns. The aim of the action, says the artist, is “to ensure the return of deposited artworks and extricate themselves from the scheme”.

Zohar Elhanani, the venture’s chief executive, tells Money it hasn’t received anything about the group action, adding “the majority” of the artists are “very pleased” with the way APT is run. He says: “It’s a minority that’s very negative in its approach ... A loud minority that is voicing their frustration or anger, and I’m not sure it’s warranted.”

Elhanani says the APT’s “mutual assurance” model works, in that artists whose work has not sold have received payouts from the scheme. And on the storage fee, “we listened to the artists and did not pursue that”. He adds: “We are hopeful many of the artists - even the ones who were very vocal - do come round and realise that the base premise of the programme... has significant merit and benefit to the artist.”



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