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Fisk’s Reaction to Court Decision: $30-Million Smokescreen

In a statement posted this evening on its website, Fisk University demonstrates a serious case of delusional wishful thinking in its characterization of today’s court decision that nixed the $30-million Fisk/Crystal Bridges Museum collection-sharing plan as currently written. The court did say that if no alternate Nashville-based plan for the collection could be put forth within 20 days, it would consider a revised Crystal Bridges plan that would more closely adhere to Georgia O’Keeffe‘s stipulations for the care and display of the Stieglitz Collection that she donated to Fisk.

But Fisk, rewriting the ruling to its own liking, incorrectly and misleadingly declared the following:

The ruling…gives the Attorney General until September 10, 2010 to
craft an alternate proposal providing Fisk with $30 million [emphasis added] and an
alternate Nashville location for display and maintenance of the [Stieglitz]

There is nothing, NOTHING in the Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle‘s decision (which you can read for yourself here) saying anything about the alternate proposal’s having to provide Fisk with 30 cents, let alone $30 million. All that the proposal has to do is provide a viable Nashville-based “plan for the display and maintenance of the art” that adheres to Georgia O’Keeffe’s wishes as closely as possible.

The ruling does state this:

The Court has conducted legal research to see if in other cases of financially unstable [emphasis added] or bankrupt institutions courts have allowed the institution to sell a charitable gift [such as the Stieglitz Collection] to generate money for the institution. The Court located none. Instead, what the Court found is that in the case of a bankrupt institution, the charitable gift was given to another institution to carry out the charity.

Fisk, in serious financial difficulty, desperately wants to monetize its artistic assets. The court understands the financial situation, but it sees its role regarding the Stieglitz Collection as insisting that the donor’s intent be honored as closely as possible. Chancellor Lyle explains why:

The law has made the value judgment that it is better in the end for society as a whole that charitable giving be encouraged and rewarded by sticking to the plan and intent of the donor. The theory is that if donors see that the law does not honor their plans and intentions, donors will quit giving.

an ArtsJournal blog