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Fisk Continues Legal Quest to Share Collection, for $30 Million, with Crystal Bridges

Fisk University President Hazel O’Leary, center

Today seems to be CultureGrrl‘s follow-up day.

This just in: Still tirelessly seeking court approval for its $30-million collection-sharing deal with Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR, Fisk University has now filed a motion in Davidson County Chancery Court seeking a trial to determine whether it can legally deviate from artist Georgia O’Keeffe‘s written
that Fisk “will not at any time sell or exchange any
of the objects” from the Stieglitz Collection. The collection was donated to the university by O’Keeffe.

In late February, the Tennessee Supreme Court left standing a Court of Appeals decision that removed the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum from the case. The Santa Fe museum had claimed that it should receive the collection, as successor-in-interest to artist Georgia O’Keeffe, if the university could no longer adequately care for the collection.

To be determined by the Chancery Court is whether complying with O’Keeffe’s conditions for her gift has (due to Fisk’s
serious financial difficulties) become impracticable or impossible.

Robert Cooper, Tennessee’s Attorney General (who has been actively involved in the case), had this to say about that:

Given Fisk’s recent reaccreditation [my link, not his] by the Southern
Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the university can no longer argue
that the sale of the collection is necessary to its financial survival. 
As a result, it seems increasingly unlikely that Fisk will be able to justify
to the court proceeding with its proposed sale of [a half-share in] the world-renowned art

What’s more, on Feb. 28, Jennifer Brooks and Kevin Heim of the Tennessean reported [paywall for full article]:

An odd thing happened to Fisk during the half-decade it spent in
court, fighting for the right to sell a share in the art collection left
to the university by painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Fisk’s finances
may have started to improve on their own….Fundraising has improved and the university’s assets have doubled in
recent years. In that case, some on campus and in the community
are wondering whether Fisk still needs to sell its art.

If the deal with Fisk doesn’t happen, at least Crystal Bridges is in discussion with the High Museum, Atlanta, for another collection-sharing arrangement.

While we’re talking about follow-ups, Judith Dobrzynski’s Real Clear Arts blog today covers the continuing saga of Brandeis University’s beleaguered Rose Art Museum, which, in a sense, echoes Fisk’s story—finances improved; still thinking about selling art.

an ArtsJournal blog