Forbes recently published an informative online piece on a new IRS Revenue Procedure that makes the use of Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) as a means for tax deferral more achievable for art and collectibles.  CRTs are generally used by those who are charitably minded and wish to sell a highly appreciated asset without having to pay a significant capital gains tax bill.

If the appreciated art is sold unconditionally by an art collector, the art collector, of course, would be responsible for income tax on the gain in the year of the sale.  However, if the appreciated art is sold by a CRT, which is typically exempt from state and federal income taxes, the gain is taxed over a period of time as distributions are made from the CRT.   In the meantime, the complete amount of sale proceeds unreduced by taxes can be reinvested by the CRT.  Moreover, in the year the art is sold by the CRT, the art collector is eligible to take a charitable deduction on his or her individual tax return in which such deduction is based on the remainder value of the CRT that is projected (based on specific IRS formulas) to be given to charity.

So exactly how does a collectibles CRT work?  Generally, art is transferred to the CRT by a collector and that art is sold by the trustee of the CRT who reinvests the proceeds in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.  As discussed above, the transfer of art to the CRT and the subsequent sale of the art will not result in a current capital gains tax bill for either the art collector or the CRT.

The CRT then makes a series of annual payments to a non-charitable beneficiary, usually the art collector who created the trust (or a family member) for his or her life or for a term of years.  The annual payments to the art collector or family member will be made from the CRT’s portfolio of assets, and the amount will vary depending on the structure of the CRT.”

This new change by the IRS is considered to have come at an “opportune time” with the Federal Reserve expected to increase interest rates later in the year as CRTs are most effective in higher interest environments.  In the meantime, art collectors may wish to consider this new IRS Revenue Procedure as we wait to see what happens with federal interest rates in the months ahead.





In recent international art world news, it has been recently reported that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has recently attributed a questioned work, “River Landscape With Figures” (1625-30), among other works, to the highly respected Dutch 17th-century artist, Hercules Segers.  The landscape painting had been attributed for many years to Segers, but it had been discredited in the 1970s by a leading Segers scholar who was uncertain of the authenticity of the work.

New research has led the Dutch national museum to conclude that the work should be attributed to Segers.  Over the past two years, the Rijksmuseum has conducted and examined technical studies on about 100 known and questioned Segers works from around the world.

Henry Pettifer, who is Head of the Old Master Paintings Department at Christie’s in London, has said that the authentication “could add value” to the work, but it is difficult to predict the amount as Seger’s works “so rarely appear at auction, and because there’s so much controversy about attribution.”

Segers is regarded as one of the Dutch Golden Age’s “most experimental and mysterious artists, who was admired by and influenced Rembrandt, among others.”

The museum will be presenting the Segers work among a number of paintings, impressions and prints in a large-scale retrospective entitled “Hercules Segers” running from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017.  The exhibition will then move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it will open on February 13, 2017 as “The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers.”

In a recent twist of a long running debate that has captured the attention of the art world for many years, a leading Degas expert believes that a long-disputed plaster of celebrated artist Edgar Degas’s “Little Dancer”, which displays the ballerina in a slightly different pose, is indeed an earlier model of Degas’s prominent 1881 sculpture La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans.

The expert is Arthur Beale, the retired Chairman of the Department of Conservation and Collections Management at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Beale now believes the controversial theory  of another art historian, Gregory Hedberg, that the plaster was created during the lifetime of Degas.  Beale’s recent endorsement of Hedberg’s theory is particularly surprising as Beale was once part of a group of other respected art historians who have long contradicted Hedberg’s view of the plaster.  The long-disputed plaster was discovered in the closet of a now defunct foundry outside Paris in 2004.  Hedberg has said that the plaster is Degas’s work or of his studio and was created prior to the artist’s death in 1917.

In general, the Degas experts believe that the plaster is a copy with a number of distinct differences in pose, posture and expression from Degas’s actual “Little Dancer” sculpture.  In parting ways with the other experts, Beale has said that the others “should take a second look” and that “there’s a good deal of evidence, of all natures—art, historical, technical, scientific and so forth—that make this a rather significant, seemingly significant piece.”

For further information on the long-disputed plaster, see “Did Degas Make This Plaster?  An Expert Now Says Yes” as published by the New York Times on September 12, 2016.

UPDATE: In follow up to our posts regarding the Peter Doig lawsuit, last month, a federal court in Illinois declared that the disputed work signed “Peter Doige 76” is not the work of famous Scottish born artist Peter Doig.  Among the many odd facts presented in this case was the glaring issue that “Doig” and “Doige” are two different names. This case demonstrates that authentication, even by the living artist himself, can prove to be a costly endeavor for all parties involved.

There may be some lessons learned from the Doig matter:

In this digital age, creating a definitive catalogue of work may be easier than ever for living artists, and artists that want to maintain control over their body of work should take advantage of innovative technologies that permit them to document their works.  The fact that the Doig matter went to trial demonstrates that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) is not the panacea for all of the legal issues facing artists. In particular, VARA provides artists rights for disavowing damaged or modified work but does not address when the art is misattributed.

In a recent interview, Doig commented on the time and money wasted on the lawsuit.  It is not clear whether the plaintiff will appeal the court’s decision.

With the long days of summer coming to an end next month, ArtNews recently published a very informative and timely guide online as a preview of the fall season’s major exhibitions and biennials around the world that I thought would be of particular interest to our blog readers.

The ArtNews online guide includes both a national section and an international section covering the period from September through December of this year.

To access the ArtNews guide, see Fall Preview:  Museum Shows and Biennials Around the World.


Further to our post below regarding the trial over the authenticity of a painting alleged to have been made by the Scottish painter Peter Doig, some interesting notes regarding the waning days of the trial were captured by artnet.  Among them:

* The lawyers and the Judge differed as to the pronunciation of Doig’s name;

* During cross-examination, the attorney representing the plaintiffs asked whether the work in question was a painted by “Captain Butterknife.”

* The question of whether Doig was incarcerated at Thunder Bay as alleged by the plaintiffs appeared to have been left unanswered.

The final verdict is expected to be given orally in the coming weeks.

Read more here.

By Daniel Schnapp.

The New York Times recently reported that actor Alec Baldwin contends he was betrayed by a gallery owner and artist, whom he thought had made his dream come true.  Baldwin has long admired a 1996 painting by Ross Bleckner titled “Sea and Mirror.”   He even carried an image of the painting in his wallet.  So when a gallery owner reported that she could deliver the painting to Baldwin, he paid the $190,000 and hung the painting in his Manhattan office.

A few months later, Baldwin discovered there was something off about the painting—the “new” smell, the colors.  Baldwin now contends that the gallery owner sent him a copy of the painting, and tried to pass it off as the original.

Counsel for the gallery owner denies any wrongdoing by his client.  He reported that Baldwin was advised that he was going to receive a different version of “Sea and Mirror” painted by Bleckner.  Baldwin denies ever being told that he was receiving a copy.

Read the full story here.


The Ross Bleckner “Sea and Mirror” at Alec Baldwin’s Manhattan office.

Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

The esteemed Association of Art Museum Directors (“AAMD”) recently published its Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Materials and Works of Art by Art Museums (the “Guidelines”) on June 1, 2016.

As set forth in the Introduction of the Guidelines, nearly all aspects of museum operations, from the display of works of art (i.e., works of the visual arts in any media subject to copyright in the United States) to the dissemination of archival material, from the creation of exhibition catalogues to the use of online collections, are encompassed by the possession, ownership and use of copyrighted materials and works of art in art museums.

While art museums must be mindful of the rights of creators of, and copyright holders in, materials and works of art, museums rely on the right to use copyrighted materials and works of art in appropriate instances and under conditions that are well recognized.  Of course, not only do museums use copyrighted materials and works of art, but they also create such materials and commission such works.  Museums should (and the AAMD believes they do) understand and expect their copyrighted materials and works of art to be subject to the same fair use by third parties.

In today’s constantly changing technological world and legal landscape, the AAMD recognizes that art museums seek guidance as to how they can fulfill their missions of acquiring, preserving, studying and interpreting works of art held for public benefit, while respecting the rights of authors, artists and copyright holders.  The AAMD believes that any such guidance should “acknowledge the right to use copyrighted materials and works of art without undue restriction or limitation, so long as such uses are legally and ethically sound.”

The Guidelines fulfill a need to “inform the field about appropriate and normative practices in the use of copyrighted materials and works of art and the application of fair use in the context of various museum activities.”  The AAMD encourages each museum to develop its own written policy and procedures regarding the use of copyrighted materials and works of art as the Guidelines are intended to only generally inform and assist member museums.

Following the Introduction, the Guidelines begin with a discussion of “fair use” under the United States copyright laws, introduce “special considerations” (i.e., attribution, partial images, website terms of use, contract limitations, and courtesy clearance) that are related to the legal test for fair use and should be considered when museums are using copyrighted materials and works of art, and lastly include “specific examples” that address various museum activities for guidance in the fair use analysis, such as online collections, publications (e.g., exhibition catalogues, scholarly articles, blogs, educational materials, collection handbooks, museum brochures, and other).  The Guidelines include an Annex at the end of the document on fair use and an analysis of the four factors to be considered when determining whether the use of copyrighted materials and works of art is fair use under the United States copyright laws.

To review the Guidelines in their entirety, see Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Materials and Works of Art by Art Museums published online by the AAMD.

Through community support and collaboration with internationally renowned artists, the Mural Arts Program has celebrated more than 30 years of participatory public artmaking.

In 1984, the Mural Arts Program was established as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network.  At that time, Artist Jane Golden reached out to graffiti taggers in an effort to redirect their talents into constructive public art projects.  In 1997, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates was established as a private nonprofit to advise and support the Mural Arts Program.

Learn more here.


Legacy by Josh Sarantitis and Eric Okdeh.  Photo by Jack Ramsadale.

This week’s blog post is a nice mix of science and art, which are two of my favorite subject areas.  An exciting discovery by a team of researchers at the Australian Synchrotron led to the recovery of an underlying portrait hidden upside down below Edgar Degas’s painting, “Portrait of a Woman”, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

Since the 1920s, the oil paints in Degas’s portrait of the anonymous woman in “Portrait of a Woman” (c. 1876-1880) have been gradually fading over time, revealing a possible hidden portrait underneath.

Up until now, previous attempts to capture the underlying image hidden in “Portrait of a Woman” using conventional X-ray and infrared techniques have only showed a shadowy outline of another woman.

To achieve a high-resolution image of the underlying portrait, the researchers used a synchrotron, which is a type of particle accelerator.  As sources of extremely high-energy light, synchrotrons work by directing such light (a million times brighter than the sun) into an X-ray beam (one tenth the diameter of a human hair).  At the Australian Synchrotron, the researchers used this intense X-ray beam to scan Degas’s painting via a method known as “X-ray fluorescence” (“XRF”).  Using this method, the painting is analyzed literally point by point by a unique detector in order to identify the chemical signatures of the various paint elements on a fine scale.

The team of researchers viewed an elemental map of the underlying hidden portrait as it emerged on a computer monitor over a 30-hour period.  The hidden portrait is believed to be of model Emma Dobigny, who Degas had a special fondness for as suggested by old letters from Degas.

The researchers’ work was not over just yet.  Following the synchrotron scan, the researchers had months of data interpretation ahead having been left with a terabyte of X-ray data and a black-and-white map of the underlying portrait. During this time, the researchers wrote software so that different metal elements known to be present in different paint colors could be converted into a plausible color reconstruction of the painting.

In addition to the revealing of a lost painting, this project also provides key information about Degas’s painting techniques, which could be helpful in the identification of forgeries.  This recent project using XRF technology essentially provides an entirely new level of information about Degas’s artistic process.

In case you may be wondering, it was common practice for artists at the time to paint over old canvasses.

For images of the color reconstruction of the lost painting using XRF technology see Finding Degas’s Lost Portrait With a Particle Accelerator published by the New York Times on August 4, 2016.

For detailed information on the researchers’ work see A Hidden Portrait By Edgar Degas published on on August 4, 2016.