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The Museo del Prado, the main Spanish national art museum located in Madrid, received the largest private donation in decades on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. Prado officials announced that the museum was the recipient of 12 medieval and Renaissance works by Spanish artists.

Barcelona-based businessman and engineer Jose Luis Varez donated the collection to the institution during a ceremony, which counted the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy among its guests. Jose Pedro Perez Llorca, president of the Prado’s board of trustees, said, “These aren’t times of lavish state spending, so this donation is generous and tremendously timely.” Spain’s dire economic standing has led to severe spending cuts in an attempt to meet public deficit targets.    

The recently acquired paintings and sculptures include the central panel of an altarpiece from a church in northeastern Spain titled The Virgin Tobed (1359). The Catalan Italo-Gothic painting is believed to be by 14th century artist Jaume Serra (died after 1405). The works will join the Prado’s exemplary collection, which includes paintings by Spanish masters such as El Greco (1541-1614), Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), and Francisco de Goya (1746-1828).

To thank Varez for his generous donation, the Prado will name a room in the museum in his honor.

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Three highly attended and widely acclaimed exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art generated about $781 million in spending by regional, national and foreign tourists this spring/summer season. Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, Tomas Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City, and The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde are to thank for the impressive chunk of change.

The Metropolitan has employed a number of audience studies in recent years to calculate the public economic impact of its special exhibition program. With a direct tax benefit of $78.1 to New York City, it appears the program is well worth its while.

In total, 339,838 visitors came to the Met to see Schiaparelli and Prada and 323,792 patrons came to see The Steins Collect, which will remain on view though November 4, 2012. At the time of the study, Tomas Saraceno on the Roof drew the largest crowd with 368,370 visitors.

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Andy Warhol once said, “Good business is the best art.”  And while he wasn’t referring to art museums per se, he might as well have been. These days, museums across the country are fighting to stay in the black—and now some of them are asking folks to pay more in property taxes to make up the shortfall.

Last Tuesday, voters in three Michigan suburbs agreed to a raise their property taxes to save the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), which has struggled mightily with its finances for the past decade. Unlike most major metropolitan museums, the DIA operates without a significant endowment and receives no financial support from the city of Detroit or the state of Michigan.

Voters approved what’s known as a millage tax, a fee assessed on the value of your home. The more your property is worth, the higher your tax. In this case, the DIA levy costs approximately $15 for every $150,000 of a home’s fair market value, and will raise around $23 million a year from Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties (the last of which includes Detroit).

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