Peter Norton cashes in; what about his artists?


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Software entrepreneur Peter Norton has reason to celebrate -- 26 artworks from his collection brought $26.8 million at Christie’s on Tuesday night. Not one of the lots went unsold. And a few set new records for artists, with Paul McCarthy’s ‘Tomato Head (Green)’ leading the pack at $4,562,500.

But will Norton cut the artists in on his windfall? According to the California Resale Royalty Act, a seller or seller’s agent (a.k.a. an auction house) must give 5% of the resale price of an ‘original’ artwork to the artist provided that the seller lives in California or the transaction take place there.


Although Norton has multiple residences, he is identified in Christie’s news release as ‘the Los Angeles collector and software entrepreneur.’ And the 5% in this case is significant: $228,125 just for McCarthy’s ‘Tomato Head.’ Other artists who could get a cut from Norton’s sales include L.A. artists Charles Ray and Mike Kelley and New Yorkers Christopher Wool and Robert Gober. (Italian prankster Maurizio Cattelan does not qualify because of his lack of U.S. residence.)

The auction house, which was sued last month for allegedly not complying with the resale requirement, has stated that it views the law ‘as subject to serious legal challenges’ and ‘looks forward to addressing these issues in court’ but declined to address Norton’s sale specifically. Norton has not responded to requests for comment.


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--Jori Finkel