Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Artful Dodgers

From a Forbes article on rich people and sneaky ways of using art to save/earn money,

"Steve Wynn is frequently compared to Norton Simon. A restless collector who bought voluminously mostly during the last five years--in spite of near-blindness from advanced retinitis pigmentosa. Initially he bought for himself and for his firm, Mirage Resorts (which has since been bought by MGM Grand). The works went on view in the Bellagio Hotel as part of a strategy to attract a more cultivated tourist to Las Vegas. All the art not on loan was for sale.

Confronted with a sales tax bill, Wynn succeeded in having the Nevada Legislature pass a law exempting his collection, since, he argued, its regular display provided an educational benefit to the people of Nevada.

While Wynn was buying art tax-free, he was also being paid a reported $5 million a year to allow the Bellagio to show works from his personal collection. When Nevada legislators learned that the Bellagio was charging visitors a stiff admission fee for their educational benefit, they asked why the man earning it should be paying no sales tax on the art that people were paying to see. Wynn agreed to admit Nevada residents at a discounted rate, and the tax exemption was allowed to stand.

Wynn's biographer, John Smith, who described the Nevada Legislature as something close to a wholly-owned subsidiary of the gambling industry, said the tax-exemption gambit was "malarkey, but they let him do it." Wynn is now building Le RĂªve, a hotel to house the Picasso painting that he owns and the rest of his collection."

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