Tax benefits gained from owning art offshore offer "maximum flexibility" when moving a painting from country to country. This freedom of circulation facilitates the transfer of art across national borders, an activity that currently presents its own unique set of financial and legal challenges.
The global art market now tops $55.1 billion. A 2006 Senate Investigation found that billionaire brothers Sam and Charles Wyly and their families spent at least $30 million in untaxed offshore dollars on artwork, jewelry and furnishings over a 13-year period.
As with many art purchases, collectors pay sales taxes in the countries where the pieces are acquired. The advantage to working with offshore accounts is not paying annual wealth taxes in countries with more stringent regulations.
Thyssen-Bornemisa treats her art collection as have other patrons for generations. Well-known is the story of how Hendrickje Stoffels financed Rembrandt's career after the painter went bankrupt. In an artful maneuver, the enterprise she created with Rembrandt's son, the seventeen-year-old Titus, shielded Rembrandt from creditors while allowing him to work as an employee of the H&T art dealership. Thanks to Stoffels' smart art patronage, Rembrandt was able to focus on his painting instead of his finances, producing among other masterpieces this impressive three-quarter length self-portrait.
Take Agnes Dürer the wife of Albrecht. The fifteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do metal worker brought a healthy dowry of two hundred florins to the Dürer marriage, into which her husband immediately dipped (financing an extended art trip to Italy).
Every morning at the Nuremberg marketplace or the Frankfurt fair, Agnes marketed his prints, handling the money side of their enterprise. Thanks largely in part to Agnes, Dürer became the first Northern artist to be directly influenced by first-hand contact with the Italian Renaissance. His engravings and oil panels display the influences of Italian art. He depicted historical biblical characters Adam and Eve as a more complex, highlighting Adam's air of bewilderment and uncertainty, and Eve's positive dance toward the forbidden fruit on the tree of knowledge.
Throughout history patrons of the arts, those individuals behind the financing of art productions, have had the privilege of endowing generations of citizens with masterpieces that would not come into being were it not for their generous patronage. Tax havens fulfill the world's desire for the continuance of our inherited and yet-to-be-created cultural heritage.
This exchange demonstrates a sort of magic that happens in museums, galleries, private collections, and whispers around the world. The resulting spark connects works of arts to their rightful place in the institutions and collections that house masterpieces of human ingenuity.
While art is still considered a leisure activity, entertainment for aristocrats, merchants, and even the working class, the importance each culture places on the kaleidoscope of objects demonstrates the value and pride we associate with our aesthetic contribution to the world. Devoted to expressing our aesthetic interpretation of the natural world, human beings count art among our most treasured artifacts.
In addition to savoring life, patrons finance millions of paintings, drawings, cut-outs, color and design studies, and works of laborious leisure. With respect to educating the public, patrons make available everything from folk art to high-end city pieces. In terms of accessibility and distribution, alone, the significance of the patron's role is undeniable.
Tax havens benefitting patrons of the arts sometimes seem decadent. Seen in conjunction with the world's desire to safeguard her most valued treasures, the focus illuminates the more direct connection patron's have to the world's insatiable love of art.
"Conversion of Saint Paul", 1600
oil on cypress wood, 237 x 189 cm.
Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome
oil on canvas, 52.7 x 42.7 cm.
Duke of Sutherland collection (on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland)
"Salvator Mundi", c-1500-1510
oil on wood, 65.6 x 45.4 cm.
Private collection, New York
"The Madonna With the Family of Mayor Meyer (The Darmstadt Madonna)", c.1525-8
Oil on panel, 146.5 x 102 cm.
Reinhold Würth collection, Germany