Thursday, 10 May 2018


I head some pundit on Radio 4 yesterday morning talking about Christie’s sale of 19th- and 20th-century works from the collection of the late Peggy and David Rockefeller, where Henri Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923) went for $80.8 million, a record for a work by the artist at auction. He was going on about an increasing appreciation of art, but this has bugger all to do with art appreciation - it's all about investment strategies.

If some of this vast and obscene amount of money filtered down to support burgeoning artists, then it wouldn't be so bad, That's not such a bad idea - a tax on art sales over a certain price to support bursaries and scholarships for artists. Say 10%.

However, then there are the practicalities - where would the tax be levied and on whom? The buyer or seller - logic dictates the recipient of the proceeds, but purchasers also pay taxes on bought items in the form of VAT. Would it be levied in the country of the seller/purchaser, or the country where the sale takes place? If the latter, you'd find sales taking place in tax havens. Difficult to implement, as the rich are adept at avoiding taxes.

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