Art Still Fetching Big Bucks, But Will Tax Rules Nix Charitable Giving?

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amedeo_modigliani.jpgIt boggles my mind when less important art work goes for big bucks. The Swann Galleries in early March annonced that it fetched $84,000 for a pencil drawing by Amedeo Modigliani (actually one of my favorite 20th century artists). Okay, Modigliani (pictured at right) was great, and I'd probably pay good money for one of his empty absinthe bottles. But eighty-four grand for a pencil drawing? Okay, fine, but what about prints, otherwise known as posters? And will buyers be turned off in the future if tax rules on gifting of art change?

The Swann Galleries said in a recent press release that, "Record prices were achieved for several prints, including Camille Pissarro’s Femme à la Barrière, etching printed in black, 1889, $15,600; John Marin’s Downtown New York, the El, drypoint, 1921, $12,000; Martin Lewis’s Circus Night, drypoint and sand ground, 1933, $15,600; and Pablo Picasso’s Femme au fauteuil II: Dora Maar, aquatint, scraper, burin and drypoint, 1939, $26,400."

My art world friends tell me that even prints --- as long as they are limited edition and done by famous artists --- occasionally can attract serious money. Obviuosly, Pissarro was a big time talent. But financial advisors might want to re-acquaint themselves with some long-discussed changes to the tax treatment of art donations. Congress has been talking about getting rid of so-called fractional giving for more than a year. We have written about the financial planning quirks of collectibles from time to time. (And you'd be surprised what seemingly worthless objects could be worth.) And with estate tax law totally up for grabs, now would seem like a good time to reach out to your wealthy clients who collect about creating a plan B.

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