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News Flash: Alice Walton Grins As Court Nixes Fisk-O’Keeffe Museum Agreement

In a decision that appears to look with great favor on the offer made by Alice Walton on behalf of her Crystal Bridges Museum, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle of the State Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tennessee, this afternoon rejected a tentative settlement agreement whereby Fisk University would have handed over to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, its “Radiator Building” by the artist, for the bargain sum of $7.5 million. (Fisk would have gotten to display the painting for four months, every four years.)
In her opinion, Chancellor Lyle noted that the proposed settlement wasn’t a good deal, for the “obvious reason that Crystal Bridges offers more money”—$30 million for an undivided half interest in the collection.
She said that the case between Fisk and the O’Keeffe Museum should proceed to trial, to decide whether “Fisk had violated the conditions of [Georgia O’Keeffe’s] gift of the [Stieglitz] Collection by not displaying it or maintaining it.”
Chancellor Lyle further noted:
Depending on the degree of severity of the alleged neglect, the outcome at trial could be that Fisk forfeits and loses the Collection before it can pursue the Crystal Bridges offer. The court concludes, however, that the risk of forfeiture at trial should be taken.
She added that “the risk of forfeiture is not necessarily the most likely outcome”: The case could be dismissed, or Fisk could be given the chance to refrain from “violating the conditions of the gift. Given the equitable powers of the Court in crafting injunctive relief, arguably the Court could take into account the Crystal Bridges proposal.”
Even though she wasn’t a party to these proceedings, this sure sounds like a judgment in favor of Alice Walton. The case between Fisk and the O’Keeffe goes to trial next week.

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