Saturday, February 23, 2008

O'Keeffe & Fisk, Update

Georgia O'Keeffe Photo by Maria ChabotPhoto, entitled "Georgia O'Keeffe Hitching a Ride to Abiquiu", taken by Maria Chabot in 1944.

In November, I wrote an entry about the O'Keeffe Museum and Fisk University, and how I thought the O'Keeffe was behaving badly.

This week, the long-awaited trial took place. Prior to the trial, the judge had thrown out the tentative agreement Fisk had made with Alice Walton's new Crystal Bridges Museum which would have allowed them to share the work in return for $30 million from Walton to help the struggling college.

At the trial, lawyers for the O'Keeffe argued that Fisk lost the right to the artwork when it took the collection off display, and tried to sell it. Bill Harbison for the Museum said that Fisk had held the collection "hostage in an effort to monetize it". The Museum's position at the trial was that the entire collection (worth $100 million or more on the open market) should default to the Museum, with, as far as I can tell, no money changing hands.

Lawyers for Fisk argued that the school has been doing the best it can with its limited resources. They pointed out that O'Keeffe, while she was still alive, had allowed Fisk to retain the collection, even though she wasn't always happy with its handling of the artwork. They say they did not violate the terms of the agreement with O'Keeffe, instead seeking legal redress to determine their rights in this situation. They were unable to display the collection because they could not afford to renovate their art museum, which had deteriorated to the point that the art was in jeopardy. They have drained their endowment substantially, and this week announced they were dropping their NCAA Division III athletic programs to save $500,000.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle may take up to 30 days to render her verdict.

1 comment:

SantaFeKate said...

The O'Keeffe Museum will not be allowed to steal $100 million worth of art from Fisk University, Nashville Chancellor Lyle ruled yesterday. But the university won't be able to sell the collection either, and will have to put it back on display by October or risk losing it altogether. At least the O'Keeffe got its wrist slapped appropriately.