The New York Times drilled down over the weekend on the phenomenon of high-priced art purchases that come to Oregon for temporary exhibitions. The recent showing of painter Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucien Freud, which arrived in Portland shortly after Las Vegas collector Elaine Wynn allegedly paid $142.4 million for it at auction in New York is only the latest example of this puzzling practice.
The Times reports there is a simple, three-word explanation for why the Portland Art Museum and the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art: no sales taxes. (WW earlier reported on the use of Oregon's sales-tax-free zone as a reason the Bacon triptych visited Portland and speculated—incorrectly—on who might have bought it.)
Here's that the Times wrote:
"Collectors who buy art in one state but live in another can owe thousands, tens of thousands, even millions of dollars in state “use taxes”: taxes often incurred when someone ships an out-of-state purchase home. But if they lend the recently purchased work first to museums like the Schnitzer, located in a handful of tax-friendly states, the transaction is often tax-free."
"Dozens of important works have come to the Schnitzer in recent years, largely because of the tax break, museum officials believe — so many that the museum has a program called “Masterworks on Loan”; the featured works are housed in a second-floor gallery. Similar loans — which rarely extend beyond a few months — also flow into other museums in Oregon, and occasionally New Hampshire and Delaware, all states that have neither a sales nor a use tax."