In the U.S. there is a generation of contemporary artists who have never been richer and they are endowing – with art and money – some significant foundations. Cy Twombly Foundation, for example, reportedly has assets of over $1.5 billion. There is even a support initiative called the Artist-Endowed Foundation Initiative, which seeks “to strengthen the charitable impact” of these entities.
In Canada, the tradition of the artist foundation is not as well established. There are a few small and mighty gems such as Fondation Guido Molinari in Montreal, but it’s an underdeveloped part of the Canadian estate planning and philanthropic landscape.
More often than not, an artist’s foundation is set up as part of the estate plan. Its focus is the stewardship of the artist’s works and legacy. Aside from the typical tax and philanthropic benefits of a foundation, here are some charitable and practical purposes:
- Study and scholarship of the artist’s work, which includes publications and academic research.
- Exhibitions, either presented by the foundation or in collaboration with a public gallery.
- Management of the artist’s inventory. This includes storage, loans and gifts to public galleries, as well as sales of art to fund the Foundation’s charitable purposes.
- Certification of works.
- Developing and maintaining a catalogue raisonné (the comprehensive record of an artist’s works).
- Management of copyright – including fees and licensing.
One of the challenges of artist’s foundations is cash-flow. The art may have significant long-term artistic and monetary value, but there is little money to pay the bills. Works are sold over time to provide operating income. Sharing resources within a supportive and flexible public foundation is a practical solution.
Artist’s foundations also don’t exist in a planning vacuum. Although the structure may arise from an estate planning need, it’s essential to have the right art experts involved, as well as good understanding of the art market. Galleries and dealers build, defend and sustain artists. They are essential long-term collaborators.