A new venture launching on 7 October aims to bridge the gap between ivory tower and income for artists, helping them stabilise their affairs and protect their legacy.
Artistate arose out of a long-held belief that too much has been left to chance with regards to estate planning, often with disastrous results for artists and their families. As its co-founder, the lawyer Pierre Valentin says: “We see the process starting as soon as an artist begins their professional career. A really good estate is nothing more than an extension of a well-structured creative business”.
Case studies on the Artistate website involving Mark Rothko, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso highlight what can happen if things go wrong.
It is not just about money, it is also about safeguarding reputations, markets and artistic legacies. Artistate’s co-founder John Martin, a London-based art dealer and co-founder of Cromwell Place, argues it will also benefit the art market itself.
“It’s financially in everyone’s interest to look after an artist’s estate properly,” he says. “The advent of ARR (droite de suite) will more than justify the investment in making a catalogue raisonné, enforcing copyright and providing museum loans and donations. If collectors, auction houses and galleries can trust the integrity and management of an estate, the market will have more confidence which, in turn, benefits the estate and its income from ARR. It’s a healthy symbiotic relationship in which everyone wins.”
Martin’s campaigning work to rescue the beleaguered estate of Fred Yates prompted him to get together with the art market lawyers Pierre Valentin and Catherine Hill and chartered accountant Keith Graham.
“The first thing that struck me was that Fred had died without a will and left an incredible mess,” says Martin, the artist’s London representative. “It was the realisation that Fred wasn’t alone. A hell of a lot of artists don’t have a will, nor even consider what will happen to their work or their reputation after their death. It is vital that something is put in place—their beneficiaries cannot be left to pick up the pieces.”
Artistate’s services start with a £250 business review. Requirements can range from making a will through to managing intellectual property rights, creating and managing an archive or providing tax advice and support.
The website lists nearly 20 areas of activity that might come into play.
“All of us had come across this challenge for artists in different ways,” says Valentin, a champion of professional practice, whose other achievements include co-founding the organisation PAIAM (Professional Advisors to the International Art Market) in 2011. “These estates are left to families with no provision and cause huge problems, with no trustees, no professional advice and no money. It becomes such a burden to them that eventually they just shove everything into cold store and leave it.”
Artists can lose their markets when they die; works in storage deteriorate, and with no exposure to the market or museums, artists simply fade from view.
“The four of us came to the conclusion that if you want a really well-structured estate, it’s just the extension of a really well-structured business,” says Valentin. “That is what creating the one-stop shop is all about and as we go forward with NFTs, copyright, digital copyright and other issues, things will become even more complex.”
They are equally clear about what they are not planning to do. “We are not there to act as agents or to interfere with the working relationship between an artist and their gallery. Artistate should complement their work and establish the foundations for a more valuable long-term partnership,” Valentin says.