NYTIMES: WHAT’S WITH MUSEUM TAX PERK?
Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Campbell and Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry both receive luxury housing as a perk of their jobs -- and don’t pay tax on the benefit, according to a front-page story in the New York Times. Campbell lives in a $4 million co-op across from the Met on Fifth Avenue, while Lowry inhabits a $6 million condo in Museum Tower. The paper estimates that this boon could be worth more than $130,000 per year for each man.
This unusual tax treatment, the NYT says, is akin to a home office deduction -- if your entire home doubles as your office. Under a special provision of the tax code, employees don’t have to pay taxes on their employer-provided housing if living there is a requirement of their job. This loophole typically applies to both university presidents and motel owners.
Are the Met and MoMA taking what might be called, in tax parlance, an aggressive position? Experts contacted by the NYT seem to think so. Other museums, such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Morgan Library, provide housing for their chief executives but report the perk as taxable income. What does the I.R.S. say? No comment on specific cases, but in general the housing must be provided for "a substantial business reason."
PICASSO SALE FUNDS PAPER MILL
George Steinbrenner famously kept his money-losing shipbuilding business afloat with proceeds from his profitable baseball team. Now, newspaper magnate and art collector Peter Brant has sold a painting by Pablo Picasso reportedly in an effort to save his White Birch Paper Company from bankruptcy. The claim was made during an Aug. 6 court hearing in Stamford, Conn., as part of Brant’s high-profile divorce from model Stephanie Seymour.
The painting in question, a powerfully grotesque late Picasso titled Le Baiser, painted in 1969 when the artist was 88, sold at Christie’s London on June 23, 2010, for £12.1 million, or about $17.9 million. According to the provenance, the work was acquired at auction in 2003 and exhibited in "Picasso, Bacon & Basquiat" at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York in 2004. The price back then? £2.9 million, or $4.8 million, for a nice profit of about $13 million.
OLD-SCHOOL GRAFFITI ART IN THE HAMPTONS
It’s just what those beach-sodden vacationers in the Hamptons need -- a goodly dose of urban culture. "Down by Law: New York’s Underground Art Explosion, 1970s-1980s," Aug. 14-Sept. 26, 2010, opens at Eric Firestone Gallery at 4 Newtown Lane in East Hampton. The French graffiti writer Blade is set to tag a bus parked outside the gallery on Aug. 13. The line-up runs from Charlie Ahearn, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Henry Chalfant to Sharp, Dondi White and Zephyr, with Coco 144, Martha Cooper, Jane Dickson, Keith Haring, L.A. 2 and Lady Pink in between.
Thinking about visiting the Chelsea Art Museum? Better call ahead! The eight-year-old institution on West 22nd Street in New York became the latest symbol of the woes affecting the non-profit art world, with a report in the Wall Street Journal detailing the alarming deterioration of its financial position.
Specifically, according to the article, CAM founder and director Dorothea Keeser has pledged the museum’s entire collection as collateral for a loan taken out in March. That $350,000 infusion of cash -- made against art estimated at $2.5 million -- was needed to help maintain interest payments on the mortgage. "Lenders of that loan are a group of individuals including a New York banker and a Hong Kong gallery owner," according to the Journal. CAM could face investigation by the attorney general over the move, or even lose its status as a non-profit.
But it gets worse: Collateralizing the art was simply to pay down interest on the mortgage. CAM’s mortgage itself is held by Hudson Realty Capital, which refinanced Keeser’s mortgage in 2008, allowing her to pay only partial interest for a grace period that is now over. Keeser missed a key payment deadline at the beginning of July, and with the accumulated unpaid interest, she now owes $13 million to Hudson -- a full $2 million more than the original $11 million loan.
Last Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, the Keeser-owned company that owns CAM’s building filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, forestalling any possible foreclosure by Hudson Reality. Contacted in Switzerland by the Journal, Keeser said that bankruptcy court proceedings would begin in September. In the meantime, the article says that "half-time furloughs" have been initiated for CAM staff -- though a representative of the museum said that CAM would be operating as usual. Keeser, for her part, wrote to Artnet Magazine to say that she was optimistic that a clearer answer about the future of the institution would be available on Friday. Stay tuned.
BRONZINO IN FLORENCE
A rare opportunity to see a survey of paintings by the Mannerist master Bronzino (1503-1572), court artist to Cosimo I de’ Medici, requires a trip to Florence -- is that punishment or what? "Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici," Sept. 24, 2010-Jan. 23, 2011, at Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi, presents 54 of the 70 know paintings by the artist alongside works by his master, Pontormo, and other 16th-century artists, including Benvenuto Cellini and Alessandro Allori.
Four years in the making, the exhibition is organized by Cristina Acidini, Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali. In addition to works from the Uffizi, the show includes loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musee du Louvre, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Szépmuvészeti Múzeum in Budapest and the Galleria di Palazzo Colonna in Rome. The Met presented a show of "Drawings of Bronzino," Jan. 20-Apr. 18, 2010.
HIGH TIMES AT ASPEN ART MUSEUM
Could it be the thin air? The Aspen Art Museum’s 2010 "artCRUSH" benefit on Aug. 6, 2010, raised a record $1.5 million in a benefit featuring an art sale conducted by Sotheby’s ace auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Top lots -- all donated -- included a work by Marilyn Minter -- she was the event’s official honoree -- that went for $120,000 and a drawing by Damien Hirst that brought $78,000. Other interesting lots included a group-portrait commission by Delia Brown ($48,000), Mamma Andersson’s 2010 painting Dying Dandy ($42,000), and works by Richard Phillips ($50,000), Kiki Smith ($34,000) and Tom Sachs ($24,000), among others.
The Aspen Art Museum has now raised $33.5 million in pledges and gifts towards its planned new facility in downtown Aspen, a 30,000-square-foot facility designed by Shigeru Ban. The building would be the architect’s first museum structure in the U.S.
ALFRED STIEGLITZ AT SEAPORT MUSEUM
One of 20th-century photo pioneer Alfred Stieglitz’s most famous pictures is The Steerage, so perhaps a show of his works at the New York seaport is long overdue. "Alfred Stieglitz New York," Sept. 15, 2010-Jan. 11, 2011, opens at the Seaport Museum New York at 12 Fulton Street with 39 vintage prints, including a facsimile of a lantern slide show, the first time Stieglitz’s lantern slides have been exhibited. The show is organized by Bonnie Yochelson, former curator at the Museum of the City of New York, and author of the show’s accompanying catalogue.
MURAL FELLOWSHIPS ANNOUNCED FOR 2010
A dozen artists have received the Edwin Austin Abbey Mural Workshop Fellowship for 2010, which consists of a $1,200 stipend and an intensive, four-week-long mural workshop at the National Academy Museum & School of Fine Art. Participants are Melanie Baker, Beth Clevenstine, Yvette Cohen, Daria Dorosh, Dave Eppley, Robert Franca, Sol Kjok, Charles Kopelson, Deanna Lee, Alexander Mosley, Carol Salmanson and Julia Whitney Barnes.
Led by artist Grace Graupe-Pillard, the workshop includes critiques and lectures by artists, architects and others, including R.M. Fischer, Richard Haas, Joyce Kozloff and Dorothea Rockburne. A display of the participating artists’ maquettes and designs is currently on view at the National Academy School of Fine Arts, July 30-Sept. 1, 2010. The fellowships are made possible through the generosity of the late Mary Gertrude Abbey, widow of the U.S. illustrator and muralist Edwin Austin Abbey.
FAST TRACK FOR AOL GRANTS
Earlier this spring, AOL announced a promotional "Project on Creativity" that would award $25,000 grants to 25 artists billed as "tomorrow’s groundbreakers and visionaries, individuals with a creative spark." The internet portal has already received more than 5,000 registrations for the grant -- prospective applications must first register before submitting an application, due Sept. 1, 2010 -- and now AOL has set up a special email for the program: firstname.lastname@example.org . The insider word is that AOL plans to extend the deadline -- but why wait?
HIRST WHEEL COVERS
In what is already being called "one of the more bizarre link-ups in the automotive world this year," Damien Hirst has designed a set of custom-designed 4x4 wheel covers. The bespoke items are made of high-quality stainless steel, plus "a high impact plastic central dish wrapped with the artist’s spin painting design." It claims to be covered with a UV laminate to prevent color-fading. The set is £900, and available for order from Hirst’s multiples operation, Other Criteria.