Art museums large and small depend on donations from art collectors to build and sustain their collections. By creating a tax incentive for these donations—donors receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of works of art they donate—the US Congress has supported the development of non-profit art institutions and expanded the public audience for art. But artists donating their own works receive a deduction only for the cost of materials used to create the work, for example canvas and paint.
The Art Dealers Association of America believes this standard is inequitable and is lobbying the government to change the law. The Artist Museum Partnership Act is a bi-partisan bill currently before Congress that would allow artists to donate under the same conditions as art collectors. The current law must be changed as it is unfair to artists, hurts museums and libraries around the country, and results in fewer donations of American art to non-profit institutions.
According to Americans for the Arts 2007 survey, the cultural industry produces more than $160bn in total economic activity and generates $12.6bn in federal income tax revenues. Therefore, the approximate $25m cost of restoring a partnership between museums and artists is greatly offset by the substantive economic contributions made by the arts and cultural sector.
The Artist Museum Partnership Act would have the greatest impact on smaller, regional, museums. These institutions need assistance in expanding their collections. Donations by artists would bring American contemporary art to new communities and increase the audience around the nation. Incentives for artists to donate their works will help ensure that significant American cultural assets will remain in the United States and not be lost to other countries.
To bring greater awareness to the issue, the Art Dealers Association of America has launched 50 Artists for 50 States, a national initiative to coordinate pledges by some of the country’s leading artists for donation to a museum in each of the 50 states. These donations would take place only with the passage of the Artist Museum Partnership Act. This legislation will support equal treatment for artists and help develop museum collections.
Roland Augustine is President of the Art Dealers Association of America