By Bobbie Leigh You give, the museum gets. Museums count on donations, and donors count on a tax deduction. It should be simple, but like all things, the devil is in the details. Charitable giving is an art in itself. For example, when a collector offered a group of Inuit carvings to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, director Peter Morrin recalls, "We respectfully declined as we had no context for that type of art." But when Steven Block of Louisville offered Morrin a collection of 87 Whistler lithographs, the museum was thrilled to add to its Whistler holdings. "The Block Collection helped us in an area where we needed bolstering," he says. It was an ideal arrangement. The gift positioned the Speed as a major center for the study of Whistler, and Block was delighted to give his collection to his hometown museum. By networking with dealers, curators and museum directors, as well as consulting with financial managers or attorneys, you can find the best fit for your donation, streamline the process, earn a tax deduction and give your art to an institution where it can be most appreciated. Through your gift to a museum, you reaffirm that art plays an important role in strengthening a civil society. Selecting a Museum Like many dealers, Ted Cooper, owner of the Adams-Davidson Galleries in Washington, D.C., advises collectors about donations to museums. "We prepared an appraisal for a client in Washington who had some major German Expressionist paintings," says Cooper. "He wanted to contribute locally, and we advised him to donate to the Phillips Collection because his paintings were a good fit with that museum’s other German Expressionist paintings." In other words, context is crucial. In deciding where to give, the donor needs expertise and an awareness of the art market. You may, for example, have a particularly charming John Marin watercolor of Deer Isle, Maine, that you would like to give to the National Gallery, which happens to have more than 1,000 John Marins. If the gallery already had a good example of that image from the same year, it would most likely decline your donation since it would not add depth to its collection. In contrast, a local or regional museum just starting to build its collection of American Modernists or marine watercolors might be delighted with your gift.


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