HOW TO: Donating to a University Art Collection
By Portia Priegert
If you want to donate a painting or sculpture to a university art collection, a good first step is to research what types of work different universities are collecting. As storage space is limited — and some donations are refused — it’s important to find a good fit for your work.
Contact the person who manages the collection, often the university gallery’s director or curator. They may ask to see photos or to look at the work in person. If they like what they see and think it belongs in the collection, they may recommend it to the university committee overseeing acquisitions. Such committees require solid evidence about provenance — including where a work has been exhibited and when it was bought. Committee members probably want to know why a work would enhance the university’s collection. Is it an important piece from a regional artist? Does it fill a gap in the collection? Is it of special historical interest?
An independent appraisal of fair market value is often needed. Most donated artworks are treated as charitable gifts-in-kind and deductions
can be claimed on the donor’s income tax form. In special cases, a work may undergo certification as cultural property. This means the work is deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance. The process is long and complex, but the designation gives the donor a considerable tax advantage.