Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia may pay $2.3M to move stalled Annie Leibovitz photo exhibit ahead

It could be a costly "donation." The Nova Scotia government is willing to pay $2.3 million so a collection of 2,000 photographs donated to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia can finally be displayed.

Culture Minister Leo Glavine says the province will pay American photographer if that's what it takes

The Mintz family of Ontario purchased 2,000 prints by celebrated American photographer Annie Leibovitz and donated them to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. However, tax and copyright obstacles prevent them from being exhibited. (Jay LaPrete/Associated Press)

The Nova Scotia government appears ready to shell out more than $2 million to photographer Annie Leibovitz if that's what it takes for her to agree to show her work in the province.

An Ontario family purchased 2,000 prints from the famed photographer and donated them to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia five years ago.

But the Mintz family didn't get the tax break it sought because a federal board refused to certify the collection as having "outstanding significance and national importance."

As a result, Leibovitz got only about half of the nearly $5 million she was promised.

On Wednesday, Culture Minister Leo Glavine suggested the province might pay Leibovitz the remaining $2.3 million.

International interest

He said mounting a Leibovitz exhibit would put Nova Scotia on the map internationally.

"Nothing has been put on the table for us at this stage," he said. "I think again there is great opportunity (and) immense potential, to have her works displayed here at the Art Gallery and that would not be out of the question if that became the bottom line to get Annie available, not just to Nova Scotians," he said.

"We know there would be interest well beyond the borders of our province for her work."

Culture Minister Leo Glavine said Wednesday the provincial government might be willing to pay copyright costs in order to exhibit photos by American photographer Annie Leibovitz. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The Mintz family bought the Leibovitz prints in 2013 and donated them to the AGNS two days later.

Under the terms of the deal, the family paid Leibovitz $4.75 million for the prints. However, half of that money was contingent on the works receiving certification.

The valuation initially submitted to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, however, was $20 million — more than four times higher than the purchase price.

Tax credit rejected

Had that valuation been approved, it would have meant a tax credit for the Mintz family worth millions of dollars more than what they paid for the work.

Only the cultural review board can provide the certification. The art gallery has applied four times and been denied each time, most recently in July 2017. 

Even though AGNS is the legal owner of the works, it cannot display them unless Leibovitz approves. That's because, according to the AGNS, she still owns the copyright.

Officials at the art gallery confirm they are in negotiations with Leibovitz.

Among the photos catalogued and in storage at the AGNS is a nude and pregnant Demi Moore, an unsmiling Queen Elizabeth II and John Lennon crouching naked beside Yoko Ono.