originally written in June of 2011

Draft Proposal

Art Royalty

for the Duluth Art Institute


by Lee Zimmerman


For Art to Become an Economic Force, We Must Value it First

As an artist, I have often been given the "opportunity" to display my art at different venues or for various functions. These very rarely pay off. For example, I can hang my paintings at a local restaurant, put prices next to them, with the hope that a customer will see the work and want to purchase it. This does not happen for a few simple reasons. First, people go to the restaurant to enjoy a meal, not to buy art. Second, if they do take a fancy to a painting, the restaurant is not set up to either take their money or package and distribute the art.

The problem in this instance is that the restaurant, the diners, and the artist are not valuing the artwork for its economic worth. What does the restaurant gain from the art on the wall? The art is a part of the restaurants environment - its interior design. What is the art to the diner? The paintings are part of the environment that creates a dynamic, aesthetic dining experience. To the artist, the art is there to be displayed effective, pleasing way. There is value here but it may not be represented by the prices posted next to the paintings.

The way to harness the economic power of the art is to pay for seeing the art, not owning the art. If art is displayed in a public place, the artist should receive a royalty. The royalty wouldn't have to be large. It might not even be related to the purchase price of the artwork. The royalty represents the economic value that people receive from viewing the art. The artist is paid and the royalty creates a dynamic artistic environment. We need to put a price on art but that price should be a lease for the moment it is viewed.

Lease art. Let the artist retain ownership. Create a dynamic environment where the art changes and the artist gets paid.


The idea of a city government royalty for art being viewed publically is policy in Norway.