Fisk University in Nashville plans to appeal a court decision last month that set limits on the sale of its prized Stieglitz art collection, according to a recent university-issued statement.
The 101-piece collection was given to Fisk 50 years ago as a public trust by artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who married photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The items were donated with stipulations that the collection never be sold. However, now because of an ownership dilemma – and amid concerns over the university’s need to sell the items – the collection is poised to go to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.
According to the Los Angeles Times, university officials filed notice with the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, indicating that it would appeal the Nov. 3 court ruling that Fisk could spend only $10 million of $30 million garnered from the sale at its discretion. The remainder would be placed in an independent endowment fund and Fisk would be allowed to use only about $1 million of income from the endowment to support the collection, the Times reported.
Fisk President Hazel O’Leary, who called the restriction unacceptable, said in the university statement that it would “effectively confiscate proceeds from the approved sharing agreement” and places the historic school in a more risky position than before.
O’Leary has also argued in court that without the sale’s revenue to replenish the university’s depleted endowment, it faces closing.
The Fisk Board of Trustees supports O’Leary, with chairman Robert Norton adding that, “The order will result in an excessive endowment for the art collection while ignoring the need to endow Fisk’s outstanding academic programs for which it has received national recognition.”
The university has been trying since 2007 to sell the collection of modern art masterpieces which costs it $130,000 a year to maintain.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee attorney general’s office, which is opposed to the sale, contends that it goes against O’Keeffe’s wishes and could impact other donors from giving to Tennessee schools and museums.