When can I visit?
See the current hours of operation.
Is the art ever open to the public?
Right now, it’s not open to the public. There is a world class collection of art, but it is totally inaccessible. If you crane your neck, you might get a peek at some of it. The Foundation exists as a 501(c)3, a tax status that Congress created to encourage organizations to work in the public interest.
What’s wrong with art that’s inaccessible to the public?
Private investors and collectors can own art and display it as they wish. But the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation is a private operating foundation. This arrangement allows the owner, Sheldon Solow, to donate art to the foundation and write off the current value of the art from his taxes. Art that has increased in value from when it was purchased can be deducted at its higher value. A requirement of a private operating foundation is that it fulfills an educational purpose. As the Foundation does not provide any public access, it is questionable how it fulfills its educational purpose.
Fine art is often perceived as elite and irrelevant. Art that is inaccessible, while supported through a public tax incentive, confirms this perception. In an era when public funding for art is being cut indiscriminately, the closed off art of the Solow Foundation can have implications far beyond the walls of one gallery.
Aren’t there other private museums like this one?
By one estimate there are at least 45 in the US though there are likely others that are smaller and not included in that list. Many of those museums provide some public access. Examples of stellar art museums that are private operating foundations and provide excellent public visits are The Broad in Los Angeles or Glenstone in Potomac, MD. Admission to both is free. The Solow Foundation is much different as there is no public access, yet it enjoys the same tax status.
What’s the value of the art in the collection?
It’s difficult to say, as the entirety of the visible collection isn’t reported on the Foundation’s statements. Based on what is currently listed in the organizations 990 filings, the value is at least $200 million. Other art that is visible in the Foundation’s holdings that are not listed on the tax returns. Donation of the art to the Foundation comes with a tax break for its donor, an incentive created by Congress to encourage donations that are in the public interest. You can read about some of the incredible work in the collection.
Have other private operating foundations been established without public access?
Yes, but Congress is not pleased with them. In 2016, Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Finance Committee, completed a congressional inquiry into private art foundations. He found that the 11 foundations reviewed all provide more access than the Solow Foundation.
How can I help?
You can register to receive updates.
You can contact Senator Hatch and encourage him to expand his inquiry to include the Solow Foundation by calling him at 202-224-5251. Or contact your own Senator or Representative and encourage him or her to increase the public access requirements for private operating foundations and art collecting 501(c)3 organizations.
Who created this website?
An art enthusiast who would like to visit the collection, but has not received any reply to inquiries by phone, in person, and email. If you’d like to get in touch or have another question email me or tweet @solowfoundation.