What to do with a large number of enormous oil paintings
February 3, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

My partner's father, a professional artist, passed away last year. We are now responsible for his work, including many large paintings (over 7 ft high), along with smaller paintings and works on paper. His father wasn't selling many paintings in recent years, so we don't think there's much of a market for them. He was an art professor for many years and had some nice residencies and reviews throughout his career, but as far as we know, he wasn't working with a gallery or dealer in the last few years.

The work is currently stored at his apartment/studio but we need to clean the space out since it's about to be sold. The art is in NYC (where long term storage is definitely not affordable for us). We live in Atlanta now and are only able to visit for a few weeks this month to clear out the apartment.

We'll take the pieces we want and try to give away other pieces to friends and family. But even after we do that, there will still be quite a bit of art left, most of which will be the largest paintings. Even if we could afford a storage facility, we can't imagine that it would be any easier to sell or give away these paintings in the years to come. The thought of locking them up in storage for the foreseeable future isn't appealing. We've looked into organizations that coordinate art donations, but I'm not sure we'd be able to donate more than just a few paintings.

We are trying to come up with any alternatives. We don't really care about trying to sell them at this point, but obviously we would rather have them hanging somewhere rather than locked up in storage. The paintings are sort of reminiscent of Pollock (looks sort of like abstract expressionism?), but with vibrant colors. Some have vaguely identifiable forms, others are more abstract. Obviously, this is subjective, but I think they look great hung in many different spaces and they seem to appeal to a pretty wide variety of people.

My partner does not have a strong sentimental or emotional attachment to all of the paintings. His father didn't leave any specifics about his wishes for the art, but we can assume he would want them to be enjoyed by people and not buried in storage, as much as is possible.

Are we overlooking some resource, particularly in the NYC area? Has anyone else been in a similar situation?
posted by pourtant to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If he was an art professor, would the institution where he taught be interested in receiving the work as a donation?
posted by yoink at 1:41 PM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Many universities have art collections. At my university, the pieces often get displayed (and very much enjoyed) around campus. We have some in our offices. I would concur with yoink, contact the school to see if they would like to add the pieces to their collection.
posted by Lescha at 1:50 PM on February 3, 2014

Seconding the suggestion for donating the works to the institution where he taught. You could also attempt to approach a gallery directly about selling the paintings - for example, Ameringer McEnery Yohe represents several artists whose work is in a similar vein to what you describe.
posted by bedhead at 1:50 PM on February 3, 2014

Definitely talk to the place he taught at. They may or may not be suitable for the university's museum, if there is one, but they may be accepted into a more general collection to decorate spaces/offices on campus.
posted by PussKillian at 1:57 PM on February 3, 2014

The places he taught and the residencies would all be natural homes for them. If he graduated from a particular college, that might be another.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:10 PM on February 3, 2014

By the way, you say he wasn't working with a gallery in "the last few years." Are any of the galleries he formerly had a relationship with still operating? If so, I would definitely contact them. It is, sadly, true what they say about an artist's death increasing the value of their work (not that that means the works are suddenly worth millions, but that a gallerist might be interested in taking over the remaining oeuvre when they wouldn't have been interested in continuing to show the still-living artist. Even if the gallery no longer exists it would be worth seeing if you can track down the person who ran the gallery and had a relationship with the artist. Many former gallerists stay somewhat active dealing in the market, and might be willing to handle some or all of the works for you, or they might have good recommendations about former collectors who might be interested or simply good recommendations about how you might usefully dispose of the work.
posted by yoink at 2:15 PM on February 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ditto to the donations, and you might also think about places or businesses he liked and/or who liked him. Maybe his local shoe repair or dry cleaner or coffee shop just loved him.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:16 PM on February 3, 2014

Many charities would gladly accept a donation such as this that they could auction off. Consider any hobbies or interests he may have had, public TV, etc.
posted by IpsoFacto at 3:32 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I guess I should have mentioned that contacting the schools and his friends and associates will definitely be part of our process of giving out the paintings. The bigger concern is that we are fairly certain there will still be paintings "left over"even after all these efforts and they will likely be the largest works. Even people or institutions that will accept donations don't seem to want 10'x7' oil paintings.
posted by pourtant at 4:39 PM on February 3, 2014

I would be shocked if the schools wouldn't accept the paintings as donations, if they are allowed to resell them for a profit. A lot of non-profits will accept any donation that has potential value.
posted by donajo at 6:08 PM on February 3, 2014

On non-preview, what IpsoFacto said.
posted by donajo at 6:09 PM on February 3, 2014

If he was a professor and you're truly fine with giving the art away, perhaps you could write a note to the school's alumni organization? Former students might be interested in the works.
posted by maryr at 8:02 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

A local artist I know has probably a hundred of his watercolors in our local hospitals... you've seen them, where they're scattered down walls in corridors. Perhaps letters to hospitals to donate. Large paintings would work in waiting rooms and lobbies.
posted by Lornalulu at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2014

FYI, there are major tax implications to everything you're talking about. I'd strongly recommend getting a tax attorney involved pronto.

Also, any paintings that are really not possible to give away as art can be given to an art school for reuse. Large canvases are expensive.
posted by Capri at 10:50 AM on February 4, 2014

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