Nova Scotia Offers to Pay Annie Leibovitz $2 Million So a Local Museum Can Show Her Photos

A payment dispute has stalled a planned show of the photographer's work at Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

American photographer Annie Leibovitz. Photo LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images.

Nova Scotia really wants its beleaguered Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition to go forward—and the Canadian province is willing to pony up big bucks to make it happen, apparently. To jumpstart plans for the show—which have been stalled by a financial dispute—the local government is ready to pay the towering photographer a cool $2 million to bring her works north of the border.

Plans for the show reportedly broke down over a payment dispute between Leibovitz and the wealthy Mintz family. The Canadian family hoped to get a tax break after buying 2,000 photos from the photographer and donating them to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia just two days later. The images included some of Leibovitz’s most career-defining images, including a nude and pregnant Demi Moore, Queen Elizabeth II, and a nude portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

But a federal board refused to certify the photos because they lacked “outstanding significance and national importance.” And without the tax break, the family was unable to pay the agreed $4.75 million fee for the works. (Under the sale agreement, the second payment was contingent on the works receiving certification.) The family’s valuation of the prints, which was four times higher than the purchase price, may have been a stumbling block: If the board had approved the donation, the family would have received a tax credit far higher than the price they paid for the prints.

In a bid to end the stalemate, the Nova Scotian government offered on Wednesday to pay the remaining $2.3 million to the photographer to convince her to show her work in the show, according to a CBC report. Although the art gallery owns the works, the museum can’t show them without Liebovitz’s permission because she remains the copyright holder.

Culture minister Leo Glavine insists that an exhibition by an artist of Leibovitz’s caliber is certain to focus significant international attention on Nova Scotia. “I think again there is great opportunity and immense potential to have her works displayed here at the Art Gallery…” he said. “We know there would be interest well beyond the borders of our province for her work.”

Whether the promise of “international attention” and $2.3 million will enough to convince Leibovitz to show her works in the province remains to be seen.


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