Quick Tips for Giving the Gift of Art

If you’re thinking about giving the gift of art to a museum this holiday season, Investment News has some tips for you.

First of all, if you don’t already have an art adviser, do get one—a trustworthy third party who can help you appraise the work, select a museum with a collection that will be an appropriate fit for it, and create a plan with you for making the gift.

It’s important to consider not the contents of a museum’s current collection as well as its policies for deaccessioning. While it’s typical for museums to sell off works in order to obtain better examples by the same artist, most institutions will still keep the original donor’s name in the credit line of the newly acquired work. If this is something that’s important to you, it’s certainly worth inquiring about.

Many museums are members of the Association of Art Museum Directors, which has a written policy regarding deaccessioning. It states that: “Funds received from the disposal of a deaccessioned work shall not be used for operations or capital expenses…[they] may be used only for the acquisition of works.” Basically, a museum can’t sell off works in order to pay operating costs. It has to use the funds to buy more art.

This policy is both a blessing and a curse for institutions with high overhead costs. Thus, prospective donors should also do some research about the overall financial health of a museum. Websites like Charity Navigator provide quick stats on nonprofit organizations. A quick evaluation involves looking at total assets minus total liabilities; at a healthy institution, the assets exceed the liabilities. A quick evaluation involves looking at total assets minus total liabilities; at a healthy institution, the assets exceed the liabilities.

Finally, as you draft an agreement for the gift, consider adding a “statement of intent.” This helps clarify your expectations for the piece, and can also aid in avoiding legal challenges with family and other heirs.

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