A Rauschenberg that has zero value in the market but a $29-million tax bill. Why people hate the IRS.


“Canyon” – Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, NY

In today’s Times, I recount a tax dispute involving “Canyon,” a combine that Robert Rauschenberg created in 1959 that cannot be sold because it contains a stuffed bald eagle, which is protected under federal laws.



Art’s Sale Value? Zero. The Tax Bill? $29 Million.

Published: July 22, 2012

What is the fair market value of an object that cannot be sold?

The question may sound like a Zen koan, but it is one that lawyers for the heirs of the New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend and the Internal Revenue Service are set to debate when they meet in Washington next month.

The object under discussion is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg that Mrs. Sonnabend’s children inherited when she died in 2007.

Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.

But the Internal Revenue Service takes a different view. It has appraised “Canyon” at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes……..

Read the full story here.



One response to “A Rauschenberg that has zero value in the market but a $29-million tax bill. Why people hate the IRS.

  1. Is it not interesting that right in Rauschenberg’s backyard (Naples, Florida) just last year a nesting pair of bald eagles abandoned their nest after their newborn babies were killed? Observation by residents of the Olde Naples community is that new home construction (multimillion dollar homes) interfered with a well-established feeding path of the parents while noise pollution from pounding of pilings for house foundations disturbed the nest and hatch lings. When residents who had been following the nesting pair and their annual offspring for 5 consecutive years tried repeatedly to contact local authorities the issue managed to be brushed under the table. Does money speak? So it seems the government is more concerned with collecting tax dollars than protecting living species.

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