Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2015, Volume 21, Issue 2

A PRIMER FOR CALIFORNIA ART COLLECTORS

By Joan M. Cotkin, Esq.,* Michael Heumann, Esq.,*

Elizabeth T. Pierson, Esq.,**and Douglas W. Schwartz, Esq.*1

Even non-art collectors have heard of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Herbert, a postal clerk, and Dorothy, a librarian, lived frugally in a one-bedroom New York City apartment and bought their first piece of art in 1962. By the time Herbert died fifty years later, the couple had gathered almost 5,000 pieces of modern art. They bequeathed their collection to the National Gallery of Art, and experts consider their collection one of the most significant of modern times.2

The Vogels’ passion resonates with collectors, and their "what ifs" resonate with collectors’ advisors. Were the Vogels investors for tax purposes? When Christo gave them a collage for cat-sitting,3 did the Vogels treat it as gift, compensation, or purchase? How would their heirs have paid estate taxes had the Vogels not bequeathed their collection to charity? How could the Vogels be sure that they got a genuine Roy Lichtenstein or John Chamberlain?

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