Sorry I Can’t Cry For Annie Leibovitz

August 1, 2009 · Print This Article

annie-leibovitzI wish Annie Leibovitz well and hope she gets her financial situation back on track and doesn’t suffer the pain shared by The Beatles and Stones which is the never ending chase to put the genie (rights to your own work) back in the bottle once you have sold it. Aside from that I can’t bring myself to shed a tear or show any shock over her situation.

If you haven’t had a chance to read up on this, on July 29th Ms. Leibovitz was sued by Art Capital Group in the NY State Supreme Court for failure to pay towards a loan of $24 million that she took. The collateral for this was properties in Greenwich Village and in Rhinebeck, N.Y., her negatives and the rights to her photographs.

Essentially the bulk of her assets.

Now after failure to make the basic payments Art Capital Group has successfully pursued payment in the courts and is gaining access to the collateral with the goal of liquefying the assets to regain the funds. Ms. Leibovitz has not commented on the actions and I don’t see any advantage to commenting but sadly it is reported that this is not the first time she has had problems making proper financial payments to clients or the state for taxes.

The point is this is not a rare case in the Art World, many many artists and creative professionals regularly take upon themselves financial responsibilities that they are ill prepared to handle or worse ignore all together. Only to learn that ignorance isn’t a defense in the court and a lifetimes worth of work and struggle can be lost in the balance of a few or single bad financial decisions.

I know it feels like it is hard to find people to trust, or you don’t want to have some “parental” figure limiting your decisions or options but the business side of art is as important in the long term if not in many ways more important in enabling great work to be produced and shared with the world.

Please take this opportunity to take a good hard look at your current situation if this current economy hasn’t made you already and ask yourself are you properly taking care of your long term finances and are adequately planing for trouble and can personally handle that responsibility yourself. If the answer is no, find someone skilled who you can partner with to make sure you don’t sign contracts or do expenditures you will live the rest of your life regretting.

Life in Art is hard enough, don’t be your own worst enemy.

7 thoughts on “Sorry I Can’t Cry For Annie Leibovitz”

  1. I don’t understand how she could have needed the loan in the first place – and that they ended up lending it. No way that would happen in Australia.

  2. Don’t be so tough on Annie. A large part of this problem arose from silly-ass marriage laws, as I understand it. Her debts were incurred largely as a result of estate taxes owed upon the death of her partner, Susan Sontag. Since they could not be married as homosexuals cannot in most of the US — the Federal Government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages even from states that allow some form of it — Ms. Leibowitz was required to pay huge estate taxes on whatever portion of Ms. Sontag’s estate she inherited, not being “related.” Etc. It was a fortune, and also entailed, it appears, buildings that needed renovation, and so on. Here’s one article rather randomly googled by me.

  3. Oops. I should have made clear that the NY Post, the link I gave, says that is NOT true. I meant, since they are so radically conservative and stupid in my view, there must be something to it. A more balanced article is here:

    I have read a handful of various articles and it appears to me Vanity Fair’s contention that the anti-same-sex-marriage inheritance laws are largely responsible is true.

  4. Hudgens says:

    Even if that was the case (and not trying to parse her life I do wish her well and more interested in this from a Art Business example) and this was nothing but an attempt to avoid tax obligations I don’t see how cashing everything out into a loan avoids anything. Infact it exposes her to more tax liability since it puts a solid price to many things that could be debated were worth less.

    There are better ways to do this if it is Tax? Sorry but the same sex line stinks of tacking something on.

    Who (in order to avoid taxes) converts an entire estate to liquid cash in the form of a loan without outside assistance on their own and then fumbles the ball so egregiously that even basic repayment isn’t possible so the “Bank” begins proceedings to claim the collateral? If she needed 24mil to pay the estate tax on Ms. Sontag’s property that is both a huge sum and putting up the rights to your photos is a risky move. Better to sell a house or two, you can always buy another. Rights to art almost never are bought back by the artist. Once it is out there you might as well say goodbye.

    Estate laws have been around for hundreds of years to pass money and property to “unmarried” individuals. Male to Male, Female to Female, Male to Corporation & even Female to Dog. I can’t believe that the deciding factor on this was tax related. If so then it seems no body talked to anyone with even a bad degree in finance, tax, law or even common sense?

  5. Ivan Pope says:

    It was property speculation that done it. If you inherit and have to pay taxes, then you may have to sell the inherited property to pay those taxes. But she wanted to develop and keep all the properties. Sure, if they had been able to marry then there may have not been taxes. But still, taxes don’t take all your inheritance and then some – there is more to this than that. This is some form of bourgeoise greed I guess.

  6. Yen says:

    I empathize with those that cannot marry but this is a classic case of living beyond your means. The worst part is that she has young children, this may financially plague them if Liebowitz is not able to find a resolve this October. Nothing new, just terribly unfortunate.

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