What is Environmental Art?

Environmental art, also referred to as ecological art, is a genre that encompasses a blend of both craft and nature. The idea of showcasing the Earth through art has been around since the dawn of man, starting with paleolithic cave paintings. They were, in essence, the beginning of landscape art. Back then, their only purpose was to display the beauty of nature itself, not to send any type of political message. In this era of a growing concern for our planet, a lot of people are feeling ecologically motivated to send a social message along with displaying their talent. There is a strong movement towards educating the public about growing concerns all around us. 

Instead of using nature as merely a background that is used to tell human tales, many artists nowadays are working alongside nature to create works of art in order to convey a deeper message about climate change and how it relates to society as a whole. By choosing a specific landscape to showcase their work instead of working within the confines of a studio, environmental artists help draw their audiences’ attention to the canvas of nature itself. This can help bring attention in a positive way to those areas that need human intervention.

Some artists in this field have chosen to express themselves in a very literal sense, using only all-natural materials and working only within natural landscapes. This can be rural, urban, or a combination of both. These particular artists try to achieve two things simultaneously – they seek to display a certain area as it has always been in its natural state, while also transforming it into a new vision to send a message. The purpose of having a twofold goal in mind is to help people see the existing world around them from a new perspective. 

A common thread among environmental artists, regardless of location, is that they must do no harm. Their purpose is to raise awareness while drawing attention to a specific area or plight without harming it further. Some artists take a more figurative approach, but most of them will use organic material in order to represent their subject matter. The types of substances they might use include rocks, sticks, leaves, sand, flowers, or water, to name just a few. This leaves them open to vulnerability, much like in nature itself which falls prey to the changing of the seasons and predictable decay. 

 

What You Need to Know About Art Authentication

Although it can be a bit difficult to decipher whether or not a certain individual is deemed as a “qualified authority,” when approaching a conversation with this kind of individual, be sure to make note of the following:

Generally speaking, individuals who are known as qualified authorities are people who have extensively studied the artists, published scholarly papers about them and Also, another important attribute of a qualified authority is if this certain individual has sold a mass scale of anywhere between twenty to a hundred works by the given artist, or has previously written or is currently writing a piece highlighting the artist’s life work.

art authenticationQualified authorities may also be the artists themselves, relatives of artists, employees of artists, direct, individuals who have legal, formal, or estate-granted entitlements to provide their professional opinions on works of art created by particular artists. Among the rest of these important attributes, qualified authorities are those recognized throughout the art community as the professionals who are able to provide in depth analysis of a particular artist and their work.

Before purchasing art, be sure to look out for these traits that indicate the individual is not a professional qualified authority in the art community.

► Individuals who have written about an artist’s work or experience, but are not the primary experts in the art field.
► People who in any way, shape, or form attribute their art to artists, but who have no concrete proof of attribution and who are not recognized authorities on those artists.
► During this process, individuals that believe or sell art on the fact since art is signed by a certain artist, there is no question that work or painting is authentic.
► People who say “that’s what the previous owner told me,” but who have no other forms of proof.
► Be sure to keep a lookout for individuals who may be self-proclaimed qualified authorities, but who are not recognized by their peers as authorities.
► Art appraisers who are not recognized authorities on the artists in question, but who appraise the art as
being by those artists anyway.
► Individuals who are unable to produce tangible first-party proof that their art is by certain artists. This lack of evidence therefore highlights that you should in fact not go through with the deal.

Along with these tips, it is important to utilize a fair amount of common sense before you purchase art from a certain person. In addition to being extremely careful under all circumstances, make sure you have concrete proof that everything you’re being told is true before you make the purchase. Also, if you have the time or resources, make an extra effort to look for a second opinion to reaffirm any lingering doubts or concerns you may have.

Estate Planning for Your Art Collection

art-collectionsAs an art collector, a good rule of thumb is to buy what you like, not what you expect to appreciate in value at the fastest rate. First and foremost, it’s a collection and something to be appreciated and enjoyed. Secondarily, it’s an investment. And when it comes to investments, there’s always one tricky thing to figure out: inheritance. An increasingly important part of estate planning is figuring out what will happen to your art when you are no longer around to appreciate it.

One problem many heirs run into when they inherit pieces or an entire collection is unwanted tax consequences, especially if the person isn’t related to the collector or simply isn’t as personally invested in the art as the owner once was. While the owner may feel a strong responsibility towards their art, it’s not necessarily going to resonate with their children or loved ones as much as it once did them. Family’s run into unintended challenges when resources have to be allocated towards something the collector is no longer around to cherish.

Luckily, there are specialist advisers well equipped to handle such issues. They have a deep understanding of tax law in estate planning and philanthropy as they apply to each country and it’s unique tax codes.

This vocation requires a specific background and niche expertise not just because of it’s complexity, but because it’s difficult to put a price on art. The value of art actually changes depending on your use for it. If you’re going to keep it, give it away, or lend it to an institution, you’re going to have different goals and priorities in mind.

For example, if you want to pass your Cezanne on to your children, it’s actually better for it to be valued as low as possible. Transfers to heirs are taxed at very high rates in most countries if the estate or gift amount is of a large enough value. You can appraise a piece of art for less for gifting purposes because it is illiquid, and there may not have been comparable sales in recent years. Because a precise value for the work is hard to gauge, tax authorities are likely to accept a low estimate, but it must come from an independent appraiser. Keep in mind, rules on valuation and tax treatment vary from country to country.

Lack of liquidity can sometimes help and sometimes hurt in estate planning. When you sell, the transaction occurs in a public market and is recorded, creating a potential taxable event for the new owners.

One complication comes when an illiquid asset generates a liquid liability. Say a collector’s heirs inherit $15 million of artwork and the same amount of liquid assets, as well as a $15 million estate tax bill. They can either sell the liquid assets to pay the bill which will leave them with all their wealth tied up in art, or they can sell the art.

Financial advisers often come up with complicated techniques for transferring ownership of art without transferring the art itself. For example, collectors can sell art to heirs and then lease it back to them, but the tax break, depends on a jurisdiction’s legal framework.

Another complication comes from a feature of many tax codes that state that property can be subject to estate tax wherever it is located when the owner dies. So, if you normally reside in Switzerland and decide to bring our Warhol to Quebec to hang in your second home, but die during your layover in Chicago, the United States will assess estate tax on the value of the Warhol. Even worse, because you are not an American citizen or resident, only the first $60,000 of the piece’s value escapes taxes, instead of the $5.43 million that is exempt for American citizens.

Another area of concern for art collectors is that of tax-efficient philanthropy. When giving art to an institution, you want to appraise in the opposite direction from which you would gift. In this case, it is best to get as high an estimate of valuation as possible in order to maximize the tax write-off. There is also a case where a collector may maintain ownership of an artwork for a given period, while lending their work to an institution. Under American law, a collector can lend work to an institution and take a prorated charitable deduction, but the collector must give the work away entirely within 10 years or at death (whichever comes first.)

Each country has its own set of rules and regulations towards estates, taxation, inheritance, etc, so it’s important to have an advisor skilled in every aspect of these laws and codes who can walk you through this complicated process. Without the proper planning, you can never be sure with whom or where your art collection may end up.

Swiss Cracking Down On Art Market Laundering

auction-dayAfter the recent FIFA scandal emerged, the Swiss government is now looking to crack down on the laundering of money and even art.

According to some sources, Russian leader Vladimir Putin bribed a FIFA executive with a Picasso painting in order to have Russia be a future host for the World Cup. The Swiss government already passed a law in parliament limiting the amount of cash that can be traded in a transaction as well as the ability to freeze assets in Swiss Bank accounts. The once highly trusted bank accounts in Switzerland, commonly used to smuggle or launder money, are now getting a major face lift due to the recent number of crimes gaining publicity.

The new law, which will be implemented in the beginning of 2016, only allows 100,000 CHF ($104,000) to be transferred in any cash transaction. This change directly targets the art market, since many auctions have pieces which sell well over the 100,000 CHF limit being imposed.

As the head of the Swiss Money Laundering Office, Stiliano Ordolli explains, these transfers are:

Payable by credit card or the seller must carry out due diligence obligations. Either the seller does not accept it or they must ask additional questions to be sure of the legal origins of funds.”

The reason for the change is not to make it difficult, but rather to protect people from laundering and other forms of extortion which can fly under the radar when cash is changing hands.

This move is expected to put a stop to fraud since all auctions must be made public and leave a paper trail. Recently, Freeport leader and art leader, Yves Bouvier was arrested for fraudulently selling paintings which were not done by the artist.

For more about Etienne, please visit Etienne Kiss-Borlase’s Official Website.