Do You Have Plans for Your Inuit Art?

IAS Annual Meeting Dennos Museum Center October 16 – 18, 2009

Comments by Bob O’Hara

Bob O'Hara Everyone collects Inuit Art for a variety of reasons. Some are making an investment counting on increasing value over time with the art to be sold or auctioned at a later date. Some are using art in their horne or office to enrich the surrounding. Some of us who travel the tundra use the art as a reminder of places we have been or for personal enrichment and enjoyment of the Inuit way of life.

There is nothing wrong with using art as an investment. Hopefully you have made good choices with respects to the artist and the piece. As time goes by there could/should be an increased value to your art. In the meantime you get to enjoy it. Hopefully the tax consequences will not be substantial when you plan to liquidate.

If you are not planning to sell what will happen to your art. Pass it on to a spouse, relative, friend? What happens when they are through with it.?

Without planning, your art could end up in a Goodwill store or even the trash What was obviously valuable to you may not be to your heirs. Remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

One solution, regardless of the amount of art you have, is to find a future horne for it. Museums, schools, libraries, non profits, camps, organizations etc. are all possibilities. However a bit of inquiry and planning is required. Just dropping off a piece of art as a surprise to a group may not have the intended effect you desired. More desirable is to inquire if the group has any use for the art. You need to be very clear on how they may use it and explain any conditions that you might impose on the gift. Some organizations will accept the gift with the intention of converting it to cash to use for their mission. Others may cherish the art and display it for many to see. Museums often have outreach programs or traveling exhibits that they need to support. If you have too many sanctions on your gift it may be rejected.

My first two attempts to find a horne for my art failed. The first group already had copies of what I had. The second took a long hard look, even had a six week exhibition of my art so others in the group could evaluate it. While they liked what they saw, it was not what they were collecting or could support. Their rejection was done in a positive note that encouraged me to look elsewhere where my art could be used in a more meaningful way.

When a canoeing friend made a college visit with his son to Northwestern Michigan College he informed me of the Dennos museum. I made a mental note of his impressions, did some research, and even used the web to find out about the Dennos Museum. Thereafter a series of encounters put me closer to the museum. I was sent an invitation to attend the Inuit Art Society meeting held in Minneapolis. There I met an IAS Board member who was also a staff member at the museum. Names and addresses were exchanged. I sent a letter to the director, Gene Jenneman. His response was very positive. At a later date, while in Minneapolis, he was able to take a quick look at my collection. Again, he affirmed the museum’s desire to accept the collection.

In 1969 when I collected my first art I had never considered the value it has nor what future it may have. As my collection grew I felt its future needed to be addressed. In my first trust I had not found a home for it, but had left some instructions for the executor to find a “home” for my art. In my revised trust I now have listed the Dennos Museum as the sole repository for all of my Inuit art and related materials. I have not placed any restrictions on the museum as to how they will use it. Obviously if they have too many copies of a print, liquidation through trade or auction would best benefit the museum. I trust their professional judgment as to the use of my collection. I do not feel handicapping an institution is fair to them.

I have established a revocable trust. My executor has the power to implement transfer of goods immediately, which makes for a swift and easy process. A trust avoids the time frame of probate, which should not take long, but in the case of my mother was extended for many many months due to the lack of some essential paperwork. I also know my art is safe from others making a claim on it. Should I wish to donate specific pieces before passing on I can do so. If I run out of wall space, I can move items to the museum as I add to my collection at home. Under these circumstances I would receive a charitable gift deduction for tax purposes.

I feel very good about this gift and I trust that it will be used in ways that help the Dennos with their commitment to Inuit art.

My purpose for sharing my story with you is that I want you to have a plan for the future of your collection. Inuit art should not not end up in a garage sale where it may be purchased for the frame and the art discarded!

If you have not made plans for your collection, regardless of its size, please do some thinking about it soon.

Bob O’Hara
6001 Goodrich Ave
St. Louis Park MN5416