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Art, Once Deemed Worthless, Going Up At MoMA Ending $40.9 Million I.R.S. Dispute

"Canyon" by Robert Rauschenberg (credit: moma.org)

“Canyon” by Robert Rauschenberg (credit: moma.org)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A much-talked about prized painting will go on display at the Museum of Modern Art, ending a years-long dispute with the Internal Revenue Service about its true value.

The painting “Canyon,” by Robert Rauschenberg had been in the collection of Ileana Sonnabend until her death in 2007.

From that time, the value of the work, which also has a stuffed bald eagle attached to it, was the subject of a five-year dispute between Sonnabend’s children, who inherited the painting, and the I.R.S.

Because of federal laws protecting bald eagles, the artwork is not legally allowed to be sold or traded.

As a result, appraisers valued it to be worth nothing.

However, the I.R.S. said the painting was worth $65 million and demanded that Sonnabend’s children pay $29.2 million plus another $11.7 million in penalties, the New York Times reported.

But the lawyer for Sonnabend’s children said as part of a settlement, the I.R.S. said the family would have to donate the artwork to a museum, where it would be put on public display and couldn’t claim a tax deduction.

The Times also reported that under U.S. laws, it is a crime to not only buy, sell or trade a bald eagle, but also to possess one.

Sonnabend was able to keep the artwork, the paper reported, because she provided a notarized statement to the government that it “had been stuffed by one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders before the laws’ passage.”

Since 2005, the painting had been displayed at various times at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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