The Brooklyn Museum seemed to have garnered
a bonanza in 1932 when it received a large bequest from the estate of Col.
Michael Friedsam, president of the elegant retail emporium B. Altman. But eight
decades later … the museum potentially faces a hefty bill to store the 229
pieces it no longer wants.
Ever been in possession of a
gift you cannot return? No, I’m not talking about a post-Christmas conundrum
where you don’t have the receipt or the tags are missing. What happens if you
can no longer keep a gift given to you through someone’s will? This is a
problem so many museums face each year in regards to gifts they receive through
the wills of deceased art collectors.
One museum currently on the hook
is the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The
New York Times recently reported on its plight regarding a gifted
collection in an article titled “Brooklyn
Museum Finds Some Problematic Gifts Can’t Be Returned.”
It seems that in 1932, Colonel
Michael Friedsam gave a massive collection to the then fledgling museum.
Nevertheless, since then the museum has grown and has too much to put on its
walls, no longer displays items like historic battle axes, and half the
Colonel’s collection turned out to be fakes or “not of museum quality.” Bottom
line: the museum wants to give or sell the artworks and stop paying the
exorbitant storage and restoration fees.
Now, it’s not that the museum is
unappreciative. No, it’s more complicated even than that. Unfortunately, the
Colonel’s will legally excludes any option the Colonel’s estate executor hasn’t
signed off on. Even more unfortunately, the last executor died in 1962.
The lesson for those with
artworks worth preserving for future generations is to include alternatives
permitting like-minded individuals (executors) to further your objectives for
your gifts in the future.
Frankly, the Colonel and his
estate planners couldn’t have foreseen the next 90 years. But let that be a
lesson when it comes to your planning. Predicting the future can be a very
tricky thing. So, how are your gifts structured? Consult your estate planning
attorney for more advice.
Reference: The New York
Times (January 15, 2012) “Brooklyn
Museum Finds Some Problematic Gifts Can’t Be Returned”