California-based artists sue auction houses over art re-sale

Some well-known visual artists are suing auctioneers Christie’s, Sotheby’s and eBay in federal court. They argue a California law gives them rights to claim royalties when their works are re-sold.

The artists include Los Angeles’ Laddie John Dill, New York painter Chuck Close and the estate of the late sculptor Robert Graham. They say Christie’s, Sotheby’s and eBay violated the 34-year-old California Resale Royalties Act. The law grants artists or their estates 5 percent of the proceeds from the re-sale of their works — if the sale takes place in California, or the seller resides in the state.

In statements, Sotheby’s said it will vigorously defend itself. Christie’s said it views the California law as subject to serious legal challenges that it looks forward to addressing in court.

The lawsuits seek class-action status to represent other artists.

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