Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fisk University Wins On Appeal

In 1949 Georgia O'Keefe donated the Stieglitz Art Collection to Fisk University.  The collection includes art by O'Keefe, her husband Alfred Stieglitz, other American artists, and European artists including Cezanne, Picasso, and Renoir.  

Several years ago, faced with financial difficulties, Fisk sought to sell two paintings from the collection. In 2005, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the successor to the O'Keefe estate, filed suit to block the sale.  A proposed settlement would have allowed the O'Keefe Museum to buy one of the paintings and would have allowed Fisk to sell the other painting to another buyer.  Then in September 2007, Fisk and Crystal Bridges, a new museum created with a gift from Alice Walton (the Walmart heiress) and located in Arkansas, agreed to a plan that involved co-ownership of the entire collection and a payment of $30 million by Crystal Bridges to Fisk.  In addition, Ms. Walton pledged $1 million to renovate Fisk's museum and also pledged to finance an art internship.

In a press release issued yesterday (July 15, 2009), and posted on the Fisk University website, Fisk announced that the Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that the O'Keefe Museum does not have standing to try to block the sale of the paintings and that Fisk may request cy pres relief.  If the O'Keefe Museum does not file an appeal, the case will return to the Chancery Court for a hearing on whether application of cy pres will permit the sale of a half interest to Crystal Bridges.  The appellate opinion noted that O'Keefe had a "general charitable intent" that the art be displayed "in Tennessee and in the South." This language may be significant for the cy pres proceeding, because a concern may be whether O'Keefe intended that all the art stay in Tennessee in perpetuity.

Thanks to Anne-Marie Rhodes, of Loyola-Chicago, for sending me the New York Times story that appeared yesterday in the ArtsBeat blog


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