By Terry Ingram, on 10-Dec-2013

Gifts in kind to approved Australian art museums, galleries and libraries took a tumble last year as more art collectors favoured a veering art market - selling rather than gifting.

For the year ended June 30, 2013 the Cultural Gifts Program received 590 applications (previously 660) and approved donations with a total value of $49 million, a fall of $9 million or 15.5 per cent from the previous year's total of $58 million.


Gifts in kind to approved Australian art museums, galleries and libraries under the Cultural Gifts Program took a tumble last year with approved donations totalling $49 million, a fall of $9 million from the previous year. Geelong Art Gallery could hardly resist Theodore Hines untitled landscape (1878) – two figures by a lake made as an anonymous gift via the CGP program and highly complementary to its collection.

Gifts in kind of pictures, books, manuscripts and all sorts of material culture can set donors up for a deduction of the average of two valuations by approved valuers.

The flow of donations tends to be lumpy depending upon all sorts of human factors so it is difficult to interpret changes in the totals from one year to the next with the presence or absence of one big collection making a lot of difference.

But anecdotally there had been a rush in the previous year to capitalise by gifting on those records that still survived from the mid noughties.

The valuation business also became harder as the market split into two thanks to big named collector sales producing some highly publicised record prices and easily overlooked – by valuers – lows. This must have raised more queries about valuations before approvals were granted.

The still substantial figures continued to deprive the saleroom of a lot of material that might otherwise have found its way to the market but it gave valuers a lot of business.

The annual reports of the main gift receiving institutions show that people ranging from artists to curators to dealers are regularly participating in the scheme as much as people disposing of family heirlooms.

The latest year's run of annual reports also suggest that the major metropolitan galleries are taking the scheme much more seriously and getting a bigger share of the pie.

This suggests donors prefer to see their works in institutions with big reputations even though it may be less likely to be shown.

The recent proposal that the Newcastle City Council to sell some of its art works may hasten this trend although it happened well after the end of the financial year.

Galleries in big country towns like Newcastle continue to attract support because they were thought most likely to give donated work more attention.

Paradoxically the Newcastle Regional Gallery this year could report its best ever year for donations as in October it was given Black Totem 2, a big public sculpture by Brett Whiteley.

Valued at $820,000 it was the gift of the artist's widow Wendy. The amount is about the amount the gallery averages in CGP gifts every year.

It has sometimes been hard to find a willing regional gallery as donors splurged in better times. Serial donor Pat Corrigan who has done a lot for the Gold Coast City Gallery and Bond University emerged again in various reports.

Geelong Art Gallery pulled back a little because it has run out of storage space. But it could hardly resist Theodore Hines untitled landscape (1878) – two figures by a lake, that is an anonymous gift via the CGP program and is highly complementary to its collection.

Giving took all shapes and forms what with gallery and private foundations involved and some gifts were just straightforward that.

Geelong also received such a gift - a straightforward gift of a kauri pine carving, British Summer (1889) by Lewis John Godfrey which demonstrates that a tax hook is not always necessary and there are many other ways outside Government acquisition funds by which galleries can add works to their collections.

The NGV emerges from amongst the galleries as the one which holds the CGP in highest regard. On the basis of simple electronic scans of the annual reports the NGV is ahead of the National Gallery of Australia with 127 mentions of the CGP, against 124.

The mentions of the CGP with every item in the long list of textiles and prints by the two “National” institutions help inflate their figures. The NGV's also benefitted from the large numbers of commemorative medals of the well known collector Dr Robert Wilson.

The mentions are also in line with the wishes of its administrative committee that it be mentioned where possible to publicise the scheme.

Established in 1978 as the Taxation Incentive Scheme for the Arts donors sometimes chafe at their gifts being sullied by association with their tax affairs. Not to mention it ignores Australian taxpayers part in the scheme.

For a certain generation of dealers and gallerists of the likes of Denis Savill, now a keen supporter of the Gold Coast City Art Gallery, and Wynn Schubert who has retired from dealing, the attraction of donating to de-clutter has also become strong even though the taxable prosperity of the mid noughties has since diminished.

The NGV director, Mr Tony Ellwood, says in his report that the program “enabled the acquisition of some outstanding works of art,”.

These include the gift from Dr Douglas Kagi of 182 prints by one American and nine British artists. The NGV through the CGP also received a suite of Australian and international works donated by Rio Tinto, and two works by John Brack including Recumbent Nude, 1980. The other work by Brack, From A to Z, 1985, was also a CGP gift from an anonymous donor while Zhu Qizhan’s Mountain Landscape, 1995, was donated by Mr Jason Yeap.

The NGA received a staggering 4095 works of art valued at $3.649 million as gifts with an unstated number coming through the CGP.

The NGA trumped the NGV in what might have been one of its most logical acquisitions when John and Rosanna Hindmarsh donated John Perceval’s Children Drawing in a Carlton Street, 1943, a significant wartime painting capturing, according to NGV director Mr Ron Radford, “the energetic mark making of children bringing life to an inner-city Melbourne street.”

Ian Scott donated two works from around 1947 – a work which on the front half an image of a face by Joy Hester and on the back an image of Sunday Reed in the kitchen, .

Other donations included Wayne Kratzmann’s gift of Margaret Olley’s White Still Life 1977 and James and Jacqui Erskine's gift of Karl Wiebke’s painting India 2000–02.

Several artists donated important gifts of Australian sculpture through the program, among them Rosslynd Piggott who donated Pillow 2000. Senior Canberra artist Jan Brown gave four small figurative sculptures in bronze and cement fondue inspired by local wildlife, particularly birds.

The AGNSW, which mentioned the program only 27 times, celebrated it for making possible a major addition to the Research Library and Archive this year with the donation by David Jones of this Sydney retailer's Art Gallery Archive (1928-92).

This was the most important of the Sydney department store galleries and many works in the gallery’s collection were purchased from it. The archive includes photographs by Max Dupain, sale records, catalogues, press reviews and correspondence.

This donation, its previous gifts of bronzes by Rodin, brings the value of David Jones gifts under the CGP to over $2 million.

The scheme's combination of the attractions of a tax deduction and image appeal obviously were not going to be buried.

One of the principal art donations was I Want To Know What Infinity Is, 2011 by the Chinese artist Shen Shaomin (b.1956).

Made of silica gel simulation, wooden deckchair, an internal motor, salt it was the gift of the Droga 8 Collection, from the collection of Daniel and Lyndell Droga 2013, in acknowledgement of former AGNSW director Tony Bond.

Mike Parr’s Sleep with Butter 2005 from John Loane, a comprehensive selection of prints by the late Ian Armstrong from his family plus a selection of Richard Crichton prints and watercolours from his son Matthew were added to the NGA's collection.

But it was not a great year for decorative arts and design. Works headed to the NGA included an 1858 knitted bed cover made en route to Australia by Eliza Laura Travers from her descendants, the Trumble family; a circa 1900 Kalgoorlie gold brooch from Maurice Turner; a 2011 pair of gold rings by Tessa Blazey from Marlowe Thompson and a 2006 glass work by Charles Butcher from Pauline Hunter.

A further 2006 glass work was forthcoming from Brian Hirst – one of many artists who took advantage of the scheme during the latest year.

The NGA acquired 5328 works valued at $3.64 million of which 4095 were gifts.

Queensland saved a lot of ink in its latest report by simply listing donors who had supported the scheme rather than list their names with every item and the way the donations came in. "Cultural" can become an overworked word in the reports.

Decorative arts museums missed out but at least a silver trowel made by Firnhaber, Australia, 1805–80 with an historic inscription joined the Art Gallery of South Australia collection. AGSA also received a 1917 beaker by Margaret Preston from Adelaide psychiatrist Dr Robert Lyons.

Altogether the AGSA acquisitions totalled $5.232 million comprising 513 works including the collection of art of the oft-overlooked local print maker, Mortimer Menpes. Of these works 276 were gifts, 93 were purchased and 144 were bequests. 296 were European, Asian and Australian heritage works produced before 1960 and 216 were works produced after 1960.

The QAG donors included artists Lawrence Daws, Simryn Gill and Brent Harris. Donations from the Ulrick and Wyn Schubert Foundation for the Arts (not made directly under the CGP) highlight the role dealers have played in the development of collections while a name from the past, Mr James Mollison is listed as a donor.

Works by Peter Booth, Paul Boston, Robert Dickerson, Dale Frank, Reggi Wasui, Tony Tuckson, Aida Tomescu, and Arthur Streeton were covered by the gifting, some, though obviously not the latter, from the artists.

Shepparton Art Museum received no gifts that matched the Robert Michael Moon gift of Aboriginal art of the previous year.

The Powerhouse Museum's acquisitions included a collection of eleven kendi, pouring vessels from Southeast Asia, from the 13th to 18th centuries; an archive and collection of earthenware animal figures made by Joyce Gittoes in the 1970s-1990s and a sterling silver tea set, salver and cocktail set, made by W J Sanders, Sydney, in the 1930s.

Otherwise it was a tough year for the decorative arts, in terms of giving as it was in selling

About The Author

Terry Ingram inaugurated the weekly Saleroom column for the Australian Financial Review in 1969 and continued writing it for nearly 40 years, contributing over 7,000 articles. His scoops include the Whitlam Government's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973 and repeated fake scandals (from contemporary art to antique silver) and auction finds. He has closely followed the international art, collectors and antique markets to this day. Terry has also written two books on the subjects