Adhering to Gift Terms
By Arthur Drache, C.M. Q.C.
When one makes a gift or art work to a museum or gallery a standard requirement is that whenever the work is on display, there be a note which spells out who the donor is and all reputable galleries will be stringent in adhering to this requirement. Indeed, for gallery goes, it is always a matter of some interest as to how the work was acquired.
We were recently in Budapest and attended a show in Hungarian impressionist painters in the National Gallery which is situated in the former royal castle high on a hill overlooking the Danube on the Buda side. What made the show interesting is that the Hungarian works (few of the artists being known to us) were interspersed with works by some of the best known French painters such as Monet, Gauguin and Seurat so that one could could see how the Hungarians were influenced from outside.
Virtually every French painting came from the Israel Museum.
And in every case we were given the source of the gift. Many were donated to the State of Israel and were identified not only by donor but also with the note that the work was “on permanent loan” to the Israel Museum. Other works had been donated directly to the Israel Museum and the donors were again identified by name or organization (American Friends of the Israel Museum for example). The donors were from half a dozen countries though no Canadians were amongst them.
The issue was of particular interest to us as we are aware on a major Hungarian work which was received by a Canadian organization and which is again on “permanent loan” to a Hungarian Museum. Given our strict rules, an outright gift could not be made so the work is on the books of the Canadian organization as an asset and could be brought back to Canada if circumstances required.
We might point out that “permanent loan” is an oxymoron. It clearly is not a gift but implies that the lender has no intention of requiring the return in the normal course of events.
The main point of course is that it is clear that the Israel Museum in lending the works to the Hungarian National Gallery required punctilious adherence to the terms of the original gifts and the Hungarians of course complied. We could not but notice that on a wall which gave credit to the various people involved in mounting the show there was a line telling is who the lawyers involved in mounting the exhibit were.
 This matter was litigated some years ago in the case of an item in the Canadian War Museum which was on “permanent loan” and a couple of generations later, descendants of the “lender” demanded the return of the ietm which now had great value.