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The Tax-Exempt Private Gallery in My Backyard? It's a 'Museum'

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The U.S. tax code is designed to encourage wealthy art collectors to make their holdings available for public viewing, but the problem with donating your art to a museum in exchange for a tax deduction, is that you've just let go of a valuable investment. One way to hold onto your art while still enjoying tax breaks in the millions is to create a private museum, ideally in your own backyard, and put up with the slight inconvenience of making it at least nominally available to the public; by appointment only, with limited hours, for just a few months a year. A recent New York Times report that should surprise no one, given the skyrocketing value of fine-art auction prices, says that the number of "jewel box museums" in the U.S. has risen steadily over the last decade.

So what if your museum received just 10,000 visitors from 2006 to 2013, as did the Glenstone museum in Potomac, Maryland, created by Mitchell and Emily Wei Rales. By building a private gallery separated from their own home by a large duck pond, and stocking it with "what is considered one of the world's best collections of postwar art," (valued at over $702M) now they can write off the cost of insuring, conserving, and storing that collection, in what essentially amounts to a federal subsidy.

"There's been a seismic shift in the past 10 to 15 years," Bard College's Tom Eccles tells the Times. "Art is seen today as an equal asset class to stocks, boats, houses and jewelry, and people don't want to give their assets away." Cool that the U.S. tax code is at least making these assets available to the benefit of the public, by appointment, for a few hours a week, a few months out of the year. Oh, and in the case of the Brant foundation, in Greenwich, Connecticut, available to people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken and Chloë Sevigny at biannual galas, where, "fortified by Champagne and barbecue served under an enormous tent on the expansive green, guests have viewed art by some of Mr. Brant's favorite artists."

· Writing Off the Warhol Next Door [NYT]