Philanthropy amongst famous and influential artists is well established. Many well-known artists such as David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Gilbert and George have created their own charitable foundations, so that their collections can be protected both during and after their lifetimes, and used for the public benefit under the direction of the charity’s trustees within the parameters of the charity’s charitable purposes.  

The charitable purposes of such foundations often include educational objects, ‘the advancement of the education of the public in the arts’, and also include the power to preserve and archive collections, loan works to exhibitions and to ensure that current and future generations are given the opportunity to view works and learn from them in public spaces, national archives and institutional museums and galleries. 

Some charities set up by artists, such as the Marie Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, have wide charitable purposes and over 20 years after her death its trustees are still utilising the collection, and other assets, to advance the education of the public in the fine arts, particularly painting and sculpture, but also by making substantial grants and donations to diverse charitable projects which have a link to the founder’s personal history and interests. 

Philanthropy involving art can also involve the gifting of invaluable individual works and entire collections to charities by private collectors, or a transfer of assets with a national or historical interest, often owned by the state, in order to ringfence and safeguard the collection in perpetuity

We have acted on both sides of arrangements of this nature, helping charities to dispose of works to public institutions and others, and also assisting them to enter into arrangements with private collectors and government bodies wishing to divest themselves of the works so they can be held by the charity which will safeguard them and use the works for the public benefit by enabling a wider cross section of the public to see, visit and learn from them.  

We have acted on the transfer of numerous national collections, from Government bodies to charities, who agree to take on the physical works and in some cases relieve the public purse by assuming the financial cost of cataloguing, protecting, and utilising the collections for the public benefit. 

Libor money and Heritage Lottery funding has been secured in many instances to ‘shore up’ and document collections to enable them to pass to an independent charity to hold and protect. When setting up a new charity for these purposes we have found it can be very helpful to have the support of a grant from the Treasury, or from the Heritage Lottery Fund as the Charity Commission is aware that both these grantors will have exercised their own comprehensive due diligence exercise into the intended recipient charity and its trustees, and will have their own processes for ensuring that the items will be protected to be enjoyed both today and by future generations.

Whether works have originated from archaeological digs, sunken ships, museums, private or government collections, the mechanism for transferring them into a charity is usually very similar, and it is necessary to ensure that the gift is the subject of a comprehensive gift agreement or deed and that the purpose of the gift is clear and restricted for the desired purpose.