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Save the Corcoran Files Complaint and Petition to Intervene in Cy Près Case UPDATED

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UPDATE: This just in from the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, in response to my query: “We are not taking any position on the Corcoran’s petition now (nor on the Save The Corcoran’s petition).”

Save the Corcoran, the ad hoc advocacy group, today announced that it has filed a complaint and petition to intervene in the Corcoran Gallery’s cy près case that seeks the D.C. Superior Court’s permission for a planned merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

As described in the announcement, the complaint “charges the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art with financial mismanagement, corporate waste, and negligence in their duties….Plaintiffs are students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and members of the Corcoran who believe that the Corcoran can be rebuilt, invigorated, and restored to new life.”

Citing wide-ranging details regarding the Corcoran management’s alleged dereliction of duties, the petition asks the court to:

•    remove members of the current Board of Trustees,
•    ensure that the entire Corcoran collection remain together,
•    require that the Board submit to a full financial accounting, and
•    deny cy près relief if the Board’s own maladministration has caused the Corcoran trust to become impracticable

This sounds to me like an admirable goal but an uphill struggle against a lot of downhill momentum. As CultureGrrl readers may remember, a previous legal gambit by Save the Corcoran’s lawyer in this matter, Andrew Tulumello, demanded that the institution remain in Washington, which, under the new plan, it will (although altered beyond recognition).

It remains to be seen whether this group, which seeks an oral hearing in court, will be given standing to formally intervene. As I wrote in my previous postTed Gest, public information officer for the D.C. Attorney General’s office, told me that only the AG’s representatives and trustees of the Corcoran “have legal standing to speak. However, the judge has the discretion to allow others to speak.”

Those who are operating on the assumption that this merger is a done deal—like American University Museum, which is reportedly already salivating over the possibility of receiving some of the Corcoran’s art trove—should remember that it’s not over till the judge rules. It’s still possible that others may also seek to intervene in this case. In the Barnes Foundation’s case, it was the students who were granted legal standing (but ultimately failed to stop the move).

Meanwhile, the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area (which includes George Washington and American Universities) has just sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office “in very strong support of the partnership among the Corcoran College of Art + Design/Corcoran Museum (Corcoran), George Washington University, and the National Gallery of Art,” on the grounds that it “saves both a top-ranked school of art and design and an art collection that is truly a national treasure.”

If the Barnes Foundation’s cy près saga in any indication, the Corcoran case could take a long time to resolve.

an ArtsJournal blog