Sunday, July 19, 2009

OKeeffe and Fisk, Resolution?

Radiator Building, Georgia O'KeeffePhoto courtesy of Fisk University

The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but this week they spit out a verdict that seems right to me.

Nearly a year and a half ago, I wrote a post on the latest saga of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum vs. Fisk University. If you want a refresher, or need to start at the beginning (!), click here to read my first post in this series, from November, 2007.

Basically, the struggling Fisk wanted to sell two pieces from the Stieglitz collection that O'Keeffe donated to the university in 1949. The historically black college was in danger of shutting down, could no longer afford the upkeep on their art museum (and therefore could no longer safely display the works), and wanted to sell only two of its 101-piece Stieglitz collection. The two pieces to be sold were O'Keeffe's Radiator Building and another painting by Marsden Hartley. The O'Keeffe had been valued at more than $20 million.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe argued that Fisk was violating the terms of the bequest, and asked that the entire collection be turned over to the Museum (with, as far as I can tell, no money changing hands).

But on July 14, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the O'Keeffe had no right to the work and no standing in court. This clears the way for a possible arrangement with the Crystal Bridges Museum described in a previous post. While the O'Keeffe has 60 days to appeal the decision, one hopes that they will have the grace to back down this time.

Sadly, this has been an expensive victory for Fisk. President Hazel O'Leary said she was pleased by the ruling, but "the expense the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum has forced Fisk to incur in its effort to gain ownership of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern Art could have been committed to scholarships for our students."

In other O'Keeffe news this week, the Museum was considering action against the Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in Albuquerque for abbreviating her name on a sign as GOK. The Museum contends that the only acceptable abbreviation is G.OK, because O'Keeffe would not have liked the way GOK sounded when it was pronounced. Seriously.

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