Fisk University Wins the Latest Round in Its Legal Battle to Share Its Art Collection

Since 2004, Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, has been trying to sell all or part of its 101-piece Stieglitz Collection, which was donated to the university by artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The collection includes many paintings by O’Keeffe, as well as other works. The collection is valued at about $75 million. But a stipulation in the O’Keeffe gift says that the collection cannot be sold and must be displayed. Fisk University maintains that it needs to generate funds from this valuable asset to remain financially viable. The university had an agreement to loan the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for six months each year for a fee of $30 million. But the Tennessee attorney general opposed the agreement stating that it violated the terms of O’Keeffe agreement and went to court in order to keep the collection in Nashville. Fisk won the right to share the collection in a November 2010 ruling that was appealed by the attorney general.

Now the Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that Fisk can proceed with the arrangement with the Crystal Bridges Museum. Furthermore the court said that Fisk does not need to abide by a ruling by the trial court that mandated that Fisk set aside $20 million of the $30 million from the Crystal Bridges Museum for an endowment that would ensure for the proper care of the artwork.

The attorney general issued a statement saying the office was reviewing the court decision and would evaluate what course to take next.


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