Elsewhere online
January 12, 2015

Are Taxpayers Subsidizing Rich Collectors' Private Museums?

A growing number of wealthy art collectors are opening small, private museums, some with strictly limited visitor access, raising questions about whether the public is in effect subsidizing patrons' multimillion-dollar art troves through tax deductions, The New York Times writes.

The article cites nonprofit facilities such as the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Connecticut and the Hall Art Foundation in Vermont, located on or near their founders' estates, that host few exhibitions, close for much of the year, or allow visits by appointment only. The founders can deduct the full market value of art they donate to their museums.

Such institutions have proliferated in recent years, mirroring skyrocketing prices in the art market, according to the Times. Nonprofit operators say the museums provide significant community benefit through art loans, education programs, and other means, but Rebecca Wilkins, a senior counsel at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said she believes they "do not follow the intent, even if they follow the letter, of the law" on art gifts.