Visual Art Juan Alonso: No More Donations
posted by October 10 at 11:00 AMon
Juan Alonso’s Excelsion #1 (2008), ink and graphite on Claybord, 24 by 24 inches
Seattle artist Juan Alonso is taking a stand on the continual drain on artists represented by auctions and all manner of do-gooders. He makes the point that in the last 18 months, he has donated more work to causes than he has sold. Don’t mistake this for the statement of somebody who simply can’t sell: Alonso has a pretty healthy market among Seattle artists. (He’s represented by Francine Seders Gallery.)
It’s a perspective that can’t be ignored. Check it out:
To Whom It May Concern,
I feel lucky and blessed to be an artist and have the opportunity to create for a living. It is part of my philosophy as an artist to give back to my community, from local to global. In the last 18 months I have sold some and donated over 30 works of art to organizations (some art related, some not) and fundraisers, and have done so willingly. That is more work given than work sold. The issue is, and more so now with the current economic crisis, it seems every organization believes that artists are the first professional group of people to ask for donations for their fund-raiser, no matter what the cause is. It has gotten out of hand. I donít know of any other business group, as a lot, that is automatically called when money needs to be raised. Perhaps there are some out there. Perhaps people raising funds donít realize that artists are single-person businesses for the most part and that as a general rule, artists are on the lower end of the income levels, and that every piece given away to help a worthy cause is also income we are not bringing in to our business. Perhaps fund-raising organizations donít realize that so far there is no tax incentive for artists to donate our own work. If another individual donates my work, they get to deduct it from their taxes. If I donate my work, the only thing I can deduct is the cost of my materials, which I would do anyway at the end of the year. Under current laws, our skill, talent and labor is seen as worthless and it might be a good idea for some of the organizations asking artists for work to start lobbying governmental agencies to change their policies. As far as I know, Artist Trust is the only one doing so. How about artists being able to deduct a percentage of the price for which the piece sold? Howís that for determining fair-market value?
Until recently, I gladly gave and even served on acquisition committees for a couple of art-related organizations. At this point, however, Iím suspending all donations of my artwork in order to make a living at my job as an artist. I hope that other artists also realize that the ďexposureĒ incentive or the 10% back just doesnít cut it anymore. I hope organizations start tapping other, wealthier sources for enriching themselves and that the IRS finally comes to realize that artists are assets to the community as a whole.
Respectfully, Juan Alonso