Murakami's deal shakes up art royalty system in Japan
BY YASUKAZU AKADA STAFF WRITER
Takashi Murakami's "Time Bokan-Fatman Gold," one of the two works that were auctioned for 2.4 million yen on Sept. 9 (Provided by Takashi Murakami/ Kaikai Kiki)Takashi Murakami (Asahi Shimbun file photo)Murakami's works were displayed inside the Versailles in October 2010. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Artist Takashi Murakami stunned the art world by inflating giant balloons shaped like anime characters and creating nymphet-like figurines for display at various events and venues, including the Versailles.
Now, the contemporary artist has challenged the norm in Japan's art world by arranging to receive royalties on his works that are resold.
The internationally acclaimed Murakami signed a contract with Est-Ouest Auctions Co., a Japanese auction company, under which he will receive 1 percent of the resale prices of his work. Murakami's works have fetched prices exceeding 100 million yen ($1.3 million).
Artists in Japan do not receive any royalty payments even if their works are sold at higher prices, unlike their counterparts in France and Germany, where copyright laws entitle artists to receive a resale royalty every time their work is sold.
Auction houses in Japan are not legally responsible to pay royalties to the author of a work in the same way that writers do not receive any money from sales of their books at used bookstores.
Murakami asked Est-Ouest Auctions to pay him 1 percent of the contract price for publishing the image of his work in an auction catalog as a "fee for granting the right to print the image."
The company, however, does not have to pay the fee when the printed work is not auctioned off. Thus, Murakami receives money depending on the contract price, meaning he is paid a portion of the sales gain.
Under the agreement, Murakami and artists belonging to his company, Kai Kai Kiki Co., will receive 1 percent of the contract price when their works are auctioned off. They will receive royalties for works sold for at least 450,000 yen. The maximum amount they can receive as resale royalties is 1.5 million yen.
Twelve works of Murakami, including prints, were auctioned on Sept. 9, the first since the agreement was signed. Only a pair of prints fetched more than 450,000 yen, at 2.4 million yen in total.
Murakami was motivated to reach an agreement due to a 2008 lawsuit, in which four artists of his company sued Est-Ouest Auctions over copyright infringement.
A settlement was reached in March, and the agreement was signed.