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Artist-Museum Partnership Act

What is the Proposed Artist-Museum Partnership Act?

  • The Artist-Museum Partnership Act aims to provide economic and other incentives to artists to donate their works to museums and other institutions, and allow these artists to reap the benefits from their donations.
  • The bill, re-introduced in 2015 by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was first brought to public attention in 2000 (1). However, the Artist-Museum Partnership Act has not been passed yet. 

 

What is the current law?

  • Creators who choose to donate their pieces to museums and other institutions currently do not receive the same benefits that a collector who bought a work, and then donated it, would. Unlike collectors, who are given a charitable tax donation equivalent to the work’s fair market value, artists are only given a deduction for the supplies used. This is exclusive of labor or other costs.
  • Tax is levied on work in artists’ estates after their deaths, even if the artists could not receive deductions on resale of their pieces while alive.
  • Before Congress changed the law in 1969, artists had more incentives to donate work to museums and other institutions – they were able to obtain the fair market value deduction for donated pieces.
  • The debilitating effects of this law can be seen in major institutions: for example
    • The Museum of Modern Art: before 1969, the Museum received 321 donations from artists, and afterwards, only 28.
    • The Library of Congress: before 1969, the Library received 15-20 large donations, and afterwards, only one.

 

Why should this bill be supported?

  • The new bill would benefit all parties in any donation:
    • Artists would be incentivized to donate their work to museums and institutions rather than selling to private collectors.
    • The public would benefit from exposure to more contemporary works of art.
    • Museums and institutions would receive more work to display, a major benefit to them as it is costly to obtain new pieces.
  • Note that giving artists a tax deduction is different from remunerating “volunteers”  -- artists are donating creative works, not providing labor.

To support this bill, contact your Congressman or Congresswoman (find your representative here). 

(1) Kevin P. Ray, Artist Resale Royalty and Artist-Museum Partnership Acts Introduced. Nat. Law Rev. Apri. 27, 2015.  

Special thanks to Betsy Mead for contributing this article.

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