AN art auction house spent more than $100,000 moving a sale from Melbourne to Sydney this month after misinterpreting a new law. Sotheby’s admits it was confused about a change to the Australian Heritage Act 2006. The Act requires individual permits – costing $143 each – to sell, market, advertise or display Victorian Aboriginal artefacts not made for the purposes of sale in Victoria. The auction house believed the law applied to the sale of artefacts across all states, which is why it moved its October 20 Aboriginal art sale to Sydney. But the State Government says the legislation applies only to Victorian artefacts. “The Victorian Act only applies to objects that are of cultural heritage and significance to Aboriginal people of Victoria and specifically excludes items that are created for the purpose of sale such as contemporary artworks,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Richard Wynne says. Sotheby’s head of Aboriginal art Tim Klingender denounces the change as “convoluted and shortsighted”. He decided in April to shift the sale, saying then that Sotheby’s would not be able to obtain import and export permits for artefacts if the sale were held in Melbourne. Klingender insists “Sotheby’s had at no stage been part of the consulting process, yet we handle all of the most significant indigenous artefacts in the country”. But Wynne says: “It was the onus of Sotheby’s to understand the legislation. But Klingender is adamant Sotheby’s was told the legislation applied to the sale of all Aboriginal artefacts from all over Australia. The law was clarified after Sotheby’s managing director Lesley Alway discussed the problem with Aboriginal Affairs Victoria executive director Angela Jurjevik in August.