Lei­bovitz lost

N.S. gallery dealt ma­jor blow as board re­jects bulk of fa­mous pho­tog­ra­pher’s col­lec­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY BRETT BUN­DALE

It was an enor­mous coup for a small art gallery, scor­ing 2,070 pho­tos by famed Amer­i­can por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher An­nie Lei­bovitz.

But the do­na­tion of the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar col­lec­tion to the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia by a Toronto fam­ily has been mired in con­tro­versy - with al­le­ga­tions that the gift was a po­ten­tial tax shel­ter - leav­ing the im­ages of celebrity and pop cul­ture icons in stor­age for four years.

On Wed­nes­day the Hal­i­fax gallery’s fourth and fi­nal ap­pli­ca­tion to have a fed­eral board cer­tify the pho­to­graphs as “cul­tural prop­erty” of out­stand­ing sig­nif­i­cance was re­jected, cast­ing a shadow over the prospects of the gallery hold­ing an ex­hibit of the pho­tog­ra­pher’s work.

A gallery spokesman said the Cana­dian Cul­tural Prop­erty Ex­port Re­view Board has once again con­cluded that the bulk of the pho­to­graphs did not meet the cri­te­ria for out­stand­ing sig­nif­i­cance or na­tional im­por­tance.

Colin Stin­son said the gallery is “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” and dis­agrees with the fed­eral board’s de­ci­sion, not­ing that Lei­bovitz is one of “the most in­flu­en­tial pho­tog­ra­phers of her time.”

“We know peo­ple are ea­ger and ex­cited to see this very spe­cial col­lec­tion,” Stin­son said in a state­ment. “Our pri­or­ity is still to share the work of this iconic and cel­e­brated artist in our gallery and across the coun­try.”

While the board cer­ti­fied Lei­bovitz’s file col­lec­tion - a se­ries of snapshots that led to fi­nal pho­to­graphs - it re­fused to cer­tify the large-scale ex­hi­bi­tion-style prints.

The col­lec­tion in­cludes a por­trait of a naked and preg­nant Demi Moore, a brood­ing im­age of the Queen, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Broth­ers, and the haunt­ing photo of a naked John Len­non and Yoko Ono cud­dling on a floor hours be­fore the mu­si­cian was gunned down in front of his New York apart­ment.

Stin­son said the gallery’s pri­or­ity is to dis­play the pho­tog­ra­phy, but with­out the fed­eral cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that de­ci­sion be­longs to Lei­bovitz.

“We will talk to the artist to de­ter­mine the best path for­ward,” he said. The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is cru­cial for lu­cra­tive tax in­cen­tives that en­cour­age pri­vate col­lec­tors to do­nate art­work to pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions that couldn’t oth­er­wise af­ford the art.

Toronto art lawyer Aaron Mil­rad has said the works were pur­chased for roughly US$4.75 mil­lion but have a fair mar­ket value closer to $20 mil­lion.

CP PHOTO/AN­DREW VAUGHAN

A photo of Queen El­iz­a­beth is viewed as a col­lec­tion of art­work by famed Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher An­nie Lei­bovitz is do­nated to the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia in Hal­i­fax on June 6, 2013. A fed­eral board has re­jected the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia’s ap­pli­ca­tion to cer­tify a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar col­lec­tion of iconic pho­to­graphs by famed Amer­i­can artist An­nie Lei­bovitz as “cul­tural prop­erty” of out­stand­ing sig­nif­i­cance.

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