Arts leaders appeal to the rich to donate works

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The Independent Culture

Arts administrators have begun a campaign for a change in tax laws to encourage art collectors to donate more works, and cash, to the nation's public galleries.

Mark Jones, chairman of the National Museum Directors' Conference, which has 100 members including the National Gallery, the British Library and the British Museum, said the nation's rates of giving to artistic causes lagged far behind those of Ireland, France and Singapore.

The campaign's manifesto, Private Giving for the Public Good, stated the aim of "celebrating the donor more". "People like to be seen to be doing good, but too often the generosity of donors goes unrecognised. Giving should be visible," it says. A "national giving day" is being planned that will acknowledge the biggest donors to major cultural institutions. One aim, according to the manifesto, is to provide greater incentives for donors to give "gifts" of artwork while they are still alive rather than as a bequest after death, in order to bolster the nation's collection of contemporary artworks.

At present, the tax-relief system makes it far easier for living philanthropists to donate cash rather than artworks, the latter being taxed more heavily.

Organisers of the campaign are also hoping to increase the level of financial donations from the wealthy. Since 1992, incomes have risen by 25 per cent and personal wealth has more than doubled but charitable giving has fallen by 25 per cent.

Philanthropy UK, which promotes donations, believes the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population could afford to double their giving. But the appeal for more donations is not aimed solely at the wealthy; ordinary people are also being encouraged to give what they can. Previous examples include the schoolboy Matthew Hughes who raided his piggy bank to donate to the Tate in London. His contribution helped to raise the £4.9m to save J M W Turner's The Blue Rigi for the nation after the gallery invited people to give £5 each. The public raised £582,218 in five weeks. In a separate initiative, the Royal Festival Hall sold named seats for £300 each to help meet refurbishment costs. About 18,000 people contributed.

The success of the current fundraising campaign remains uncertain, however, with the impact of the deteriorating economic climate yet to be gauged.

Art philanthropists

*Anthony D'Offay

In February, a new modern art collection, to be known as "Artists Rooms", was established with the help of the collector and gallerist D'Offay, right, who made a part-gift-part- sale-at-cost agreement. The collection, valued at £125m, was sold to be managed by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland for £26m.

*The Sainsbury Family

Simon Sainsbury and his brothers gifted an entire wing of the National Gallery and have given £100m worth of art to public collections, including Monets and Gainsboroughs. The University of East Anglia's Sainsbury Centre was another gift to the art world from the family. He died in 2006.

*John Studzinski

The joint head of HSBC's investment banking division gives half his salary to human rights causes, the homeless and the arts. In 1996, the Polish-American banker set up the Genesis Foundation to support young artists, playwrights and musicians. Last year, he gave Tate Modern in London £5m.

*John Madejski

Sold his Auto Trader magazine empire for £170m in 1998 and is now chairman and director of 16 companies. He gave £3m to the Royal Academy in 2003 to restore the Fine Rooms and has also lent the gallery a Degas sculpture he bought for £5.3m.

*Sir Christopher Ondaatje

In 2004, he gave a £1m to save Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks for the nation. The Sri Lankan-born financier founded the Canadian stock brokerage company Loewen, Ondaatje, McCutcheon and the Pagurian Corporation, a banking and publishing empire. He has given £2.75m for the Ondaatje wing of the National Portrait Gallery. He has also given a £200,000 endowment for a literary prize for writing.