As an artist I often have non-profit agencies approach me to ask me to donate artwork for their worthy cause. A "small" piece worth $350 - $400 would be lovely, they say. I can take the donation off of my taxes, and all sorts of wealthy art collectors will be present that evening, so all the "right" people will see my work.
What they may not know is that there are some down sides to this scenario.
First, an artist is only allowed to take the cost of materials off of her taxes for donations made to charities. On said $350 piece of art, that would be about $40 for materials to frame the piece since we do our own framing. That would net me about $13 in tax savings at a tax rate of 30% (should I ever enter that lofty tax bracket).
Secondly, art at such auctions generally goes for a fraction of its actual worth. People there are looking for bargains and usually get them. That actually undermines the value of the artist's other work. People think, "Oh, I'll just wait til the next auction when I can get a piece for a better price." Or, "Well, it was only worth $150 here - why pay $350 there?" Or if it doesn't sell at all, how embarrassing is that?
Thirdly, non-profits generally don't give out the names of the people who purchase work at an auction, so it isn't even possible to add the name of the buyer to ones mailing list to try to have repeat sales. I have had difficulty finding out if my work sold and for how much.
There are better ways to handle this. The best I've heard of is for the charity to find a donor to buy a piece of art from an artist. The artist gets paid the full value of her work. The donor gives the artwork to the charity and gets the full value of the donation off her taxes. The charity gets the same piece of art and sells it for whatever it sells for and gets what it would have gotten anyway. The artist still has the issues of devaluation, but at least has gotten full compensation for the art.
That scenario seems more respectful to artists than the one which seems to imply that artists should give their work away as a matter or course. It seems to me like society doesn't completely respect our need and drive to follow our calling to create art, nor the incredibly important part it plays in society as a whole.
More on this in the coming days. I'd love your input and feedback.