Cash, Credit or Painting? How, and Why, Artists Exchange Work

The shadow economy of trades is both a holdover from the past and a vital practice that keeps artists honest — or at least competitive with their peers.

Comments: 16

  1. I wonder what the IRS's view is on all this. Gifts, bartering, etc., all are considered in one way or another by the IRS. Perhaps Dylan could claim a 53 million dollar loss?

  2. "The very materiality of visual art — its implicit singularity and primacy — is what creates the desire to possess it;" But, as you brought up Dylan; he did write "Sad Eyed Lady" as a love song to his wife. Not to mention the many, many literary artists who wrote love letters. Or the Taj Mahal: a love tomb. All these in exchange for another's love.

  3. I wouldn't advise you to talk about this kind of thing in public. The IRS is likely to be very interested!

  4. And trading is a great tax dodge too.

  5. great piece. thanks.

  6. Another practice between artists was / is essentially a tax maneuver- they exchange works, and then each donate the other artist’s work to a museum or other institution for both accolades and tax deductions.

  7. Not to be a Debbie Downer but these are taxable events you are describing. And unfortunately the artist only has a basis in the art traded equal to the cost of materials. So artists on both sides of the trade have income very close to the fair market value of the art ( and unlike an actual sale no cash to pay the tax). I‘m not sure it‘s wise o pick up this rock.

  8. Some artists are aware of the lottery like recognition of talent and sometimes share work among themselves so that if either one does win this talent show their friends can share in the cash.

  9. Some of us in the arts trade with others because we genuinely like their work, or a particular example of their work and the admiration is reciprocated. I have pieces I have traded for that I could not possibly have been able to afford. Pricing art is inevitably weird. What continues to be ironic is that if an artist donates a piece of their own work to any organization, the artist is only allowed to claim the cost of materials as a tax donation.

  10. The takeaway from this article for me is that art has gone dramatically downhill over the last 100 years. Can anyone say that the examples from 1999 and 2009 display even a modicum of talent. The titles of the recent works are the only creative element present in them. People who can't paint humans paint stars or become photographers.

  11. I recall that my mother paid for her plastic surgery with her paintings. I visited her plastic surgeon’s home on Fifth Avenue once and saw one of my mother’s paintings hanging in the dining room. It was a win-win!

  12. I love trading, and have done much more in recent years (now in my 40’s). Living with my friends art is a joy, and I would feel vain and bored with just/only my own art in my house. While I can’t afford my friends work, one perk is I can certainly trade for it.

  13. As an artist, I have benefited immensely from my talents. I seem to have a knack for reproducing other artists. So, while I can't begin to afford a Degas pastel or a Picasso oil, I can make very accurate copies of them for myself and select friends (free of charge, of course). As for my original work, I give it away. I just finished doing reproductions of all 60 of Whistler's Venice pastels. They are wonderfuily displayed in my guest room. Another aspect of using a talent to obtain that of others. They are a great pleasure and, let's face it, the only alternative would be to steal the works.

  14. 'Interesting article and a great first paragraph story about Dylan and Warhol. One important item that was overlooked has to do with the tax advantages for artists who donate traded artwork to museums. Donating your own work doesn't make for a deduction beyond the cost of materials.

  15. How about the tax benefits? I don't know if this is still the case, but if I donate one of my own works to a charitable concern, I could only deduct the cost of the materials used. If I traded with or bought work from another artist, however, I believe I would be able to deduct the fair market value. Or if someone bought my artwork and then donated it to a charity auction, they could have a deduction for the price of the work. If I'm understanding this correctly, there's a great benefit for high-price artists to exchange their works and then make a donation to a museum. The rest of us, not so much.