Donating your art for an auction or fundraiser

In regards to agreeing to donate work for purposes of a fundraising or auction: the gallery I work with in Cincinnati, Malton Gallery has a policy that any artist they represent not do this. Sylvia Rombis, the gallery owner, has the best idea I’ve ever heard for dealing with these requests.

If you really want to support an organization or cause with your work, she advises you donate a GIFT CERTIFICATE in the amount of your choice which the buyer can use to apply toward the purchase of work from your studio or from the gallery that represents you. This way, the artist has the potential of acquiring a collector, the collector sees more of the artist’s work than just one piece, the venue gets their monetary donation, the gallery is assured that the artist is not undercutting their own efforts to promote the work by lowering its value, and the collector gets a tax deduction for their contribution. Most (in my experience) venues that ask for artist donation do not know that the IRS allows artists a deduction ONLY for the value of the materials used in the production of their artwork. As if we keep track of that – or even can!

Artists are approached too many times to count and asked to donate work with no recompense for themselves, their work, cost of materials, etc., with the implied promise that the exposure for them will mean future sales and the acquisitions of future collectors of their work. The (very) few times I’ve fallen for this, even one venue in which I received 50% of the sale (still well under what the pieces should have sold for) and in which the organizers, also artists, ran a continuous loop video with each artist being interviewed about his or her work, this NEVER resulted in any future sales. The couple who bought my piece just recently opted out of my email notices about future exhibits. Furthermore, anyone who has participated in one of these fundraising auctions puts their work in competition with such things as baskets of gourmet chocolate, wine, golf lessons, and the like. Those who attend snap these things up, sometimes for ridiculous amounts, with the art either a distant afterthought, or with the clear intention of getting something valuable for next to nothing.
You have to ask yourself if you want to promote that attitude toward your work and, by extension, the work of other artists.

1 Response to “Donating your art for an auction or fundraiser”

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