A friend and I had an idea the other day to develop an alternative to the current system of funding the arts in the US. Since the culture wars of the 90's there has been a huge decrease in government funding for the arts (NEA) and artists have had to rely almost entirely on the private sector (galleries/patrons) for funding.
I was inspired by this article
that describes how in Australia there is a new law that provides artists with a resale royalty on work that they have made and sold. I love the idea. The article is written from the perspective of the private galleries and is heavily biased toward their "plight". I think the article is crazy but it got me thinking. What if there was a tax of a small percentage, say 2% or 3%, on all sales or resales of artworks over a set amount, say $500,000 and that money would go toward funding the NEA. Auction houses already charge a commission for reselling art, why not add on a small tax and give that back to the arts. 3% of 500,000 is 1,500, that is a modest amount but if an artwork sells for 100 million dollars then that would be 300,000. It is not hard to see that this tax would easily add up to be a substantial way to fund the arts in the US without asking general tax payers to contribute a dime.
I'm not sure what the system is like in other countries in terms of funding the arts but I have heard that Denmark and Sweden provide an amazing amount of public funding to artists. I'd love to hear from Americans who deal with a lack of public funding and from people who live in other countries where there is an abundance of public funding and see what you think of this idea. I don't think the US will ever expand public funding for the arts so I believe this tax on private sales is necessary to keep the arts vital in this country.