DEALERS Down Under have successfully fought off the recommendations of a government report that threatened to disrupt the status quo in the Australian art market.
At the end of June, the so-called Cooper Review proposed the closure of a popular scheme whereby works of art could be acquired as part of personal pension schemes or Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs).
The committee's chairman, Jeremy Cooper, argued that the art industry was subject to insufficient regulation and aimed to cut the exposure of the pensions market to investments that could be subject to large swings in value.
With the recommendation that all works of art currently held in such funds should be dispersed within five years, dealers anticipated a double whammy: a smaller buying audience as the purchases made through SMSFs evaporated and the prospect of a glut of sales that could have sent prices falling.
The Australian Artists Association (whose members were already reeling from the government's imposition of a resale royalty scheme) had set up Save Super Art, a national campaign opposed to the recommendations.
While works of art account for only 0.1 per cent of the value of SMSFs, according to the AAA these sales to personal pension schemes are responsible for between 15 and 20 per cent of all sales made by dealers in Australia.
"A ban on investing in art within SMSFs could cost the Australian art market an estimated AUS$100m. Removal of these sales would cause severe damage and lead to job losses and business failures within the art industry," said the AAA.
Following objections from both the opposition parties, the incumbent Labor party finally dropped support for the Cooper Review on August 3 – less than three weeks before the federal elections.