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Fisk to Appeal Ruling Against Stieglitz Collection Deal with Walton’s Crystal Bridges

I know. I’m in Athens and I’m not supposed to be thinking about Nashville.

But I left you without letting you know the one bit of news that came out of the Columbia Law School deaccessioning panel on which I partcipated on Tuesday: C. Michael Norton, whose Nashville law firm has represented Fisk University in its attempt to get court approval to monetize its Stieglitz Collection, told the assembled law students that Fisk intends to appeal the decision by Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle that had barred Fisk from selling a half-share of the collection for $30 million to Alice Walton‘s planned Crystal Bridges Museum.

So it now appears that the university’s representations that new fundraising successes would now allow Fisk to maintain and display the collection was just a legal expedient to prevent the O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, from taking control of the works donated to Fisk by O’Keeffe. This would have been a true deaccession debacle: losing the collection that the university had hoped to monetize, without anything to show for it.

In her most recent decision, Chancellor Lyle had stated:

The court credits the testimony at trial of Fisk President
Hazel O’Leary that with this turnaround in finances, Fisk intends to
take care of and display the collection, and that Fisk no longer plans
to sell a portion of the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum.

Maybe that was giving Fisk too much credit: An appeal to sell to Crystal Bridges will soon be filed, Norton told me, in the Tennessee Court of Appeals. I suspect that the O’Keeffe Museum is now likely to reverse its announced intention to withdraw from the case. The supposed realization of its objective to insure that O’Keeffe’s conditions for her gift were honored, with the collection on permanent display at Fisk, now seems again in doubt.

All rise. The court’s back in session. How much of Fisk’s scarce funds are going towards these lawsuits, we all wonder.

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