How to Become an Art Collector: It’s Easier Than You Think–Part 5

[This is the last of a five-part series by Seabrooker Barbara Burgess. The first four included “Getting to Know the Artists”, “Developing a Theme”, “Training Your Eye”, and “Considering Your Pocketbook”.–Ed.]

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Gift or Sell Your Collection

The notion of gifting or selling your collection to a museum is probably not one that you thought about while putting your art together, but it is something that should be considered for many reasons. First, keeping your collection together is important, because in this case, the sum is likely equal to more than the collective parts. Should anything happen to you, your heirs would face the choice of keeping the collection together or splitting it up in various pieces for family members. You’ve built a story out of your art, which needs to be shared by others. It is much easier to do this from the walls of a museum than from the walls of your house.

I found the Franklin G. Burroughs and Simon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach through my friend, Jonathan Green. We became friendly with its Executive Director, Pat Goodwin, through Jonathan’s various activities with the museum. My collection was getting out of hand in terms of space to display it, and I very much wanted to keep it together. I approached the museum and asked if they would be interested in acquiring it. The answer was a resounding yes.

There were certain things that were important to me with respect to finding a museum for our collection. I wanted to make sure there was stability in the museum itself, so it would continue as a financially viable entity. In this regard, Burroughs-Chapin had an impressive history that predated its establishment in June, 1997.

The building that houses the museum dates back to 1924. However, it was slated for demolition until some forward-thinking residents decided this was the building that should house the art museum of Myrtle Beach. The Burroughs Chapin Company came into ownership of a piece of land on the water, and it was decided that this was the land that should house the building that is now the museum.

With the gift of land from the Burroughs Chapin Company there followed a decade long fundraising effort. Eventually the building was moved to the new property . A new non-profit corporation was created: The Franklin B. Burroughs and Simon P. Chapin Art Museum. This is a struggle that speaks well for Myrtle Beach and its desire to have a first rate museum in its midst. Having expended such great effort getting the museum up and running, I was quite sure Myrtle Beach residents would do what needs to be done to keep the Museum viable.

I also wanted to be sure our collection would be shown as often as possible, rather than languishing in archives of the Museum’s permanent collections. I am happy to say the Museum has kept its word on showing our collection, with a third showing having occurred in the Fall of 2013.

Selling your collection can be a trickier situation, as museums would have to be flush with cash to do this. It is not impossible, especially if you find a museum whose patrons have deep pockets. Should you decide to gift your collection there are some IRS rules that make the gifting financially beneficial.

If you have ever watched a child studying a painting you own, learning from that painting about worlds he/she might never experience but for the painting, you know that your heart has been touched. Among our artwork, I have a quilt on paper, which I cherish, done by a group of schoolchildren. There is no other feeling quite like seeing your artwork affect the life of a child.

Having adults talk about your work, discussing the impact the paintings have on their lives, can be very fulfilling. You have found a purpose for your years of collecting. You have contributed to the mosaic of someone’s life. You have established something that will endure long after you are gone.

I hope these guidelines are useful to those of you who might want to consider collecting art as part of your life’s efforts. It is important that you end up loving what you buy, because if you don’t have confidence in your own taste, others won’t either. Think of art collecting as a big adventure, one that will change your life in ways you have never thought possible. If you decide to become a collector, I promise you won’t regret it.

—Barbara Burgess

Barbara Burgess

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