Gallery-Supported Art Exhibitions: Critiquing “Crayola”

Choike, Anne M.

For-profit art galleries are making news for the donations they are providing to nonprofit art organizations to support exhibitions by artists these galleries represent (part of a broader practice I term “crayola,” in reference to payola, the word invented to describe a similar practice of paying for airtime on radio and television). Yet nonprofit art organizations are committed to advancing art for the public interest, not for private profit. This Article examines whether there are any meaningful limits on crayola gallery donations that support art exhibitions at nonprofit arts organizations, focusing on the legal framework governing federal tax-exempt status, as well as the self-regulatory rules and informal norms of the art industry. Does the existing regime allow gallery-supported art exhibitions or do these activities contravene nonprofit art organizations’ missions? What short-term and long-term solutions are available and appropriate in light of the causes and context of gallery-supported art exhibitions? These questions are animated by the broader dialogue about equitable access to publicly funded resources, with the answers having important implications for what it means to promote art that is representative of American society.


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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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November 21, 2017