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Fisk Collection-Sharing Agreement: Walton’s Crystal Bridges Is First Among “Equals “

The Joint Ownership Agreement between Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum and Fisk University for the school’s Stieglitz Collection not only would put Crystal Bridges (which has offered $30 million for a half-share in the collection) in the driver’s seat, but would give the Bentonville, AR, the museum the right of first refusal if Fisk ever decided to sell its half-share of the collection: Crystal Bridges would have 90 days to announce its intention to match any outside offer and acquire full ownership. (The agreement also gives Fisk the same right of first refusal in the less likely event that Crystal Bridges decides to sell.)
Filed in Davidson County Chancery Court and subject to the court’s approval, the agreement would also give Crystal Bridges the right to pack the Collection Committee that will govern policies and practices regarding the jointly owned works. The only Fisk-selected member of the five-person committee would be the chief curator or director of the Fisk University Galleries. The others would be the chief curator of Crystal Bridges and a conservator, scholar and art museum professional, all three of whom would be “proposed by Crystal Bridges after consulting with Fisk, and approved by Fisk and Crystal Bridges.”
The committee would decide on guidelines and policies for exhibition of the artworks, the collection’s rotation schedule between the two museums, and loans to other institutions. In her letter arranging the donation to Fisk of the works assembled by her late husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe explicitly prohibited loans, except for major retrospectives.
Crystal Bridges also has sole responsibility for selecting the conservator or registrar to prepare condition reports prior to packing and shipping between the two institutions; for producing digital reproductions of the collection; and for processing permission requests for reproduction (the last to be done “in consultation with Fisk”).
The agreement does not require the parties to exhibit all 101 works all of the time (which, in any case, would not be suitable for the preservation of works on paper), but to display “an appropriate curatorial represention” of the collection, in terms of artists, media, and geographical scope. The Collection Committee must “take into account” Georgia O’Keeffe’s desire that the collection be displayed “in the same room or rooms…with no other works in the same room or rooms.”
She who pays the piper calls the tune.

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