Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Legal Commentary II: Mexico and the Arts

Again, via the Art Law Blog, USA Today has the scoop on Mexico allowing artists to pay their income tax with works of art:

That's the deal Mexico has offered to artists since 1957, quietly amassing a modern art collection that would make most museum curators swoon. As the 2009 tax deadline approaches, tax collectors are getting ready to receive a whole new crop of masterworks.

"It's really an amazing concept," says José San Cristóbal Larrea, director of the program. "We're helping out artists while building a cultural inheritance for the country."

There's a sliding scale: If you sell five artworks in a year, you must give the government one. Sell 21 pieces, the government gets six. A 10-member jury of artists ensures that no one tries to unload junk.


Under the program, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit now owns 4,248 paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Leonora Carrington and other masters.

Incredible. Basically, the government of Mexico is saying "we value the arts enough to accept it as legal tender." That's what I call putting your money where your mouth is!

"There's no censorship here," says Julieta Ruiz, a curator at the museum.

If anything, the temptation to needle the taxman makes the art even edgier, she says.

Rafael Coronel's 1980 tax payment is a portrait called He Who Doesn't Pay Taxes. A painting that Fabian Ugalde contributed in 2002 declares in huge letters, "The authorities have still not determined whether it was an act of aggression or just another piece of art."

A 10-foot-high drawing by Demián Flores shows a man sexually assaulted by a rattlesnake, an apparent reference to the Mexican government because the rattlesnake appears on the Mexican flag.
The Mexican Government proves that if you have a sense of humor about yourselves, you can get along with artists much better. After all, if the Mexican government is unfazed by Coronel, Ugalde, or Flores' poking at their faces, the works lose all of their teeth instantly. If Mexico can smile and say "well at least they're paying their taxes," what are they going to do about it?

At any rate, I would like to pay my taxes in the form of a one-man show at the Kennedy Center, curated by Rocco Landesman. Any takers?