Protect the Legacy Now


The Artist Legacy

Artists should plan early on to protect their heirs along with their legacies

“Artists frequently die before having organized their work, creating both difficulty in ascertaining how to distribute the pieces (to heirs, museums, etc.) and also allowing for the possibility of authenticity disputes. Creating a catalogue [raisonné] is something artists should avoid leaving to their senior years, according to [Loretta] Würtenberger.* ‘The more specific thoughts an artist develops during their lifetime, the easier it is later,’ she says, citing a recent conversation she had with an artist in his late forties who is represented by a large gallery and produces very technical art. ‘He is asking us to structure the whole question of a database for his studio.’ That database will become a resource for questions of authenticity as well as serving as a repository for the artist’s technical know-how—something that’s useful even while the artist is alive. ‘It’s interesting how somebody of our generation is already thinking about the posthumous phase,” she says, “and how these thoughts have consequences for what he’s doing today.’”

— from an Artsy editorial: “What Artists Should Do to Protect Their Legacies before Dying.”

*Loretta Würtenberger, co-founder of the newly launched Institute for Artists’ Estates in Berlin, is a contributor to the book The Artist Estate: A Handbook for Artists, Executors, and Heirs.

“Adam Sheffer, president of the Art Dealers Association of America [ADAA], says that talking to artists about estate planning and archiving is now a ‘standard part of the dialogue’ at many galleries. ‘When you begin a career and you start to have work enter the market, you have to think about everything as specific as archiving, as keeping extremely careful records, because down the road when it comes to the value of your foundation and issues around authenticity, the earlier you start the better,’ he says.”

— from the Financial Times, “How an artist’s legacy became big business,” August 26, 2016.

Above : David Smith, Tanktotem IV, 1953, 7/29/53, 1953, and Tanktotem III, 1953, Bolton Landing Dock, Lake George, New York, photo by the artist, c. 1953. Gelatin silver print, sheet size: 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm).
© Estate of David Smith / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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