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April 23, 2018; Crain’s New York

On West 57th Street in New York, there is a tall, atramentous bottle building. Alone the aboriginal floor’s bank is bright glass, abaft which can be apparent a few priceless treasures of the art world: works by Picasso, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, and others. The amplitude extends aback into the building, absolutely complete added agnate treasures…but the accessible will never know, back they’re not accustomed in to see.

The art belongs to a architecture run by the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation, a clandestine operating foundation created and run by 89-year-old complete acreage magnate Sheldon Solow. The foundation is a registered accommodating organization, and its Anatomy 990 states that the mission is to “maintain and affectation artwork for exhibition to the accessible at the 9 West 57th Street, New York building,” but the accessible is not, nor accept they anytime been accustomed into the museum. Moreover, it seems that admitting claiming accommodating status, the organization’s operations are about absolutely circumscribed beneath its architect and sole lath member, Sheldon Solow. Are we attractive at a accommodating operation or a vanity acquirement with a congenital tax break?

The 2016 anatomy 990 lists over $6 actor in contributions, all by Solow, who is declared as a “legend for his backbone and litigiousness.” There are no agents listed, and acutely basal expenses. Though New York charities are declared to accept three lath members, the alone ones listed are Solow, the president, and his son Stefan Soloviev, the carnality president, neither cartoon a salary. Solow additionally controls the books. The foundation claims about $1.5 actor in banknote assets in accession to art admired at able-bodied over $200 million, but gave out aloof over $10,000 in grants to the Metropolitan and Whitney art museums; the alignment doesn’t accept to accept a academic admission program.

In fact, they don’t alike accept a website. (Why would they? They accept no admission program, they don’t accost donations, and they don’t appetite bodies in their museum; there’s no advice to back to the public.) In 2017, Ethan Arnheim, an all-embracing development adviser based in Washington, D.C., acquired the area solowfoundation.org and created a adorable apology website afterwards his bootless attempts to win admission to the collection. Arnheim lists a curator, Moira Evans, who does not arise on the Forms 990, saying, “It’s cryptic what Moira does as she won’t acknowledgment buzz calls or emails and there is no advice about accessible about her. But she is the babysitter of an amazing abiding accumulating of art and possibly some acting exhibitions too, none of which are accessible to the public.”

The Solow Foundation is not the aboriginal clandestine foundation to complete admission to their art admitting accepting accommodating tax breaks, but by all letters they are the best arrant offenders. In 2015, the US Senate Finance committee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch, launched an analysis into 11 clandestine foundations “to appraise whether the accessible absorption was actuality met and whether operations of the foundations becoming the abundant tax allowances afforded to their collector-founders through the tax code.” Hatch bidding affair that some foundations’ bound admission “raise[d] questions” about the organizations’ accommodating natures, but all of the organizations he advised provided added admission than Solow.

NPQ acclaimed in 2015 that “the IRS rules are cryptic on what qualifies a clandestine architecture for a federal tax break, although best experts would accede that accessible admission is an important consideration.” Ruth McCambridge argued that “the catechism charge be apparent in the ambience of a beyond set of apropos about the abundance gap,” an accomplished point for a bearings in which the catechism of “access” is absolutely accurate and ample accessible dollars are at stake. Robert Storr, administrator of the Yale School of Art, told the New York Times, “If there’s to be a accessible absolution for taxes there should be a bright accessible benefit, and it should not be absolutely at the acumen of the being active the architecture or foundation,” as it seems to be with Solow.

It seems that Solow is advancing to canyon buying of his complete acreage authority to his son, so questions accept arisen about the fate of the art. Crain’s New York argued that if the accumulating were a owned, accepted acreage tax laws “would beggarly Solow ability charge to pay about $80 actor to bestow the works to an heir. But if buying were by the nonprofit, Soloviev could artlessly accept administration of the alignment after accident a dime of his inheritance.” That allotment is tricky; technically, the art still does not accord to Soloviev, but to the foundation he would run, which is declared to be controlled by a board. But if Solow got a tax breach for altruistic the art and Soloviev gets complete ascendancy over it the way Solow seems to have, again there are important questions to be asked about area $80 actor of accessible account factors in.—Erin Rubin

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