If you're considering charitable donations and have an art collection, consider giving the gift of art.
In the U.S. alone, there are more than 700 college and university art museums and galleries. Since most are open to the public, lending or donating a work from your collection to one can be a great way to give back to the community. And it can be a good financial decision as well.
There are many different motivations for giving art. You might have a painting or sculpture languishing in storage because you've moved to a new house that doesn't accommodate it or because your tastes as a collector have evolved.
Others inherit art but prefer not to take on the expense of adding it to their homeowners' insurance. In order to properly insure valuable artworks, “the owner must provide a valid appraisal every two years. For a painting worth say, $100,000, that will add $100 per year to your policy," said Leonard Therrien of Allstate Insurance.
Whatever the reason, donating artwork is a great way to increase your charitable contributions.
There are several options available for those interested in donating their artwork ranging from a gift-in-kind donation to a silent auction. There are a few things to keep in mind when you're considering donating your artwork.
The first step when considering donating artwork is to obtain an appraisal so you know the current value of your pieces. You will need the appraisal as proof of value to organizations you plan on donating to and as well as to deduct the value as a charitable donation on your tax return.
Perhaps it's your reunion year or your child's college is raising money for a new library and you want to give at the highest level. The appraisal you submit will be the dollar amount credited to your name. A valuable art donation will not only land you in a top donor tier, but it will also boost the giving drive and incentivize others to give.
“A gift-in-kind is booked as cash, so while a work of art won't actually help build the new library, the dollar amount is included in the total for the capital campaign," said James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass director at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College.
The best way to get your work of art appraised is to take it to the dealer who represents the artist or the artist's estate.
Not all works of art are accepted by every museum or gallery. The acquisition committee will decide if yours is right for their collection. “We will never accept work that we wouldn't exhibit," Mundy said.
Additionally, most collections prefer gifts without restrictions. At LACMA, “We prefer to accept works with the least amount of restrictions … and any proposed restrictions on gifts need to be approved by the acquisitions committee of our Board of Trustees," said Nancy Thomas, senior deputy director at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Also be aware that the museum you donate to may one day sell your piece as part of its “deaccessioning" process. All museums occasionally cull their collections based on condition, redundancy and relevance. If you're concerned about this, ask them to provide you with their specific guidelines for this process when you make your donation.
If it's not quite museum-worthy or you simply feel like offering your piece to a meaningful cause rather than a museum, reach out to an organization and talk with them to see how an art donation might be beneficial to them.
For example, many hospitals have healing through art programs in which they seek out art donations and commissions to brighten hospital walls and create a positive environment for patients undergoing surgery or treatments. If an organization doesn't have a program such as healing through art, another option that can work for most organizations is using your artwork for a silent auction. Regardless of what your piece sells for, the cause you're supporting will receive a donation, and you can receive a tax credit for the appraised value of your donation as long as you obtain the necessary paperwork to claim it.
If you're not ready to part with your art permanently, an option is to lend it to your favorite museum.
“Loans are either accepted for defined periods for exhibitions, display in the permanent galleries or occasionally for study. There is no minimum time restrictions on loans," said Thomas. Her institution prefers loans of at least a year, but that is not binding.
When individuals lend their artworks, “We hope that it looks good on our walls and that when the lender sees it, he or she might consider donating it," Mundy said. While the art is on loan, the institution will cover the insurance, maintain it and have it properly installed.
“We have blanket insurance coverage that well exceeds the value of all loans at any given time, so we can insure anything while it's on our premises. We ask the lender to supply [an appraisal showing] the value of the work. If there is a loss, then the insurance company and lender would come to an agreement as to the actual replacement value," he said, adding that the circumstance has not arisen.
Remember that unless you request anonymity, your name can be included in the description of the art you donate and you could forever remain a part of that collection. If you're an art lover, this is a wonderful way to enhance your legacy, ensure that your artwork will be well cared for and that it will continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations.
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