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Tennessee’s Brief Calls Fisk’s Proposed Art Sale to Crystal Bridges “Problematic” UPDATED

Thumbnail image for CrystalConst2.jpg
Crystal Bridges Museum-in-Progress: The concrete is poured.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper yesterday filed a brief in the appeals case brought by Fisk University in the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The school is still seeking legal permission to sell a half-share of its Stieglitz Collection to Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum, now under construction (above) in Bentonville, Arkansas.

According to Super Cooper:

Fisk’s aggressive claim seeking permission to sell half interest in the collection is…problematic.

What’s more, the AG argued that even if the court agreed that “Fisk’s financial condition rendered compliance with the [Stieglitz Collection] gift’s restrictions impracticable or impossible, the court would still have great discretion over which conditions should be amended to address such findings. Such relief would not necessarily include, and WOULD LIKELY FALL SHORT OF [emphasis added] a sale of the Collection….It is entirely possible that a much less drastic…remedy than selling the collection would satisfy Fisk’s needs, if Fisk is entitled to any…relief at all.”

As I said in my recent post, A Brief that Strains Belief:

Fisk’s attempt to have it both ways…fatally undermines
the credibility of its argument for doing the Walton deal. If Fisk has
now managed to raise the cash needed to maintain the collection over
the short term, it should labor mightily to extend this fundraising
success over the long term, rather than taking the quick but legally
and ethically problematic way out by monetizing the collection.

Cooper says that the case should go back to the lower court to determine whether Fisk really does need, for financial reasons, to modify the terms of Georgia O’Keeffe‘s gift of the collection to the Nashville university. Only after such a determination is made, he said, would it be appropriate for the court to weigh the pros and cons of the Crystal Bridges deal.

On one thing, however, Fisk and the AG agree: They both argue against the position taken by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum that as the successor-in-interest to the artist’s estate, the Santa Fe museum should be granted ownership of the collection if Fisk can no longer comply with her written wishes.

I think it’s time that Fisk realized that it’s squandering money on a protracted, losing lawsuit that could be better spent on education (or on maintaining its distinguished art collection).

UPDATE: Here‘s the Tennessean‘s coverage of the AG’s brief, in today’s paper.

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