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VOL. 36 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 27, 2012




State appeals decision in Fisk art case

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NASHVILLE (AP) — The state of Tennessee on Monday appealed a ruling that would have allowed artwork by the late painter Georgia O'Keeffe move between Fisk University — which is looking to generate money from the collection — and an Arkansas museum every two years.

O'Keeffe stipulated that the collection could not be sold or broken up. But Fisk has argued it has a financial need to complete a $30 million deal to sell a 50 percent stake in the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark.

The state, in its appeal to the state Supreme Court, said donors need assurance that their gifts will not be sold by a cash-strapped recipient.

The collection of 101 pieces of artworks includes O'Keeffe's own 1927 oil painting "Radiator Building — Night, New York." The gift was made because Fisk educated blacks as a time when the South was segregated.

Fisk has argued that it cannot afford even the $131,000 it currently spends to display the collection each year.

University attorney David Briley said Monday the school is confident that the Court of Appeals ruling to allow the collection to be moved around will be upheld.

The state said it was trying to "protect the public's interest in retaining the invaluable and historic" collection. The state also said it was trying to respect "a donor's restrictive covenants on gifts generously donated for the public's benefit." The appeal said failure "will greatly discourage future donors from making similar gifts."

O'Keeffe died in 1986. The donations were made in 1949 from the estate of her late husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The collection included works by Picasso, Renoir and others.

Fisk officials had argued at a 2010 trial that it had mortgaged all its buildings, was running a $2 million annual deficit and had no unrestricted endowment available.

The Arkansas museum features artwork amassed by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, including Norman Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter."

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