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O’Keeffe Museum Wants to Block Deal Between Fisk, Arkansas Museum


The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico plans to challenge a $30 million plan for Fisk University to share its prized art collection with a new Arkansas museum.

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville has offered Fisk the money to share a 50 percent stake in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art, donated to Fisk by painter Georgia O’Keeffe in 1949.

The historically black university has been trying to raise money to replenish its endowment by selling some of the paintings in the collection, which includes famous works by O’Keeffe, Stieglitz and others.

The New Mexico museum, which represents the late painter’s estate, blocked any sale by suing the school, claiming it was violating the conditions of her gift to the school.

Davidson County, Tenn., Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle must approve the partnership between Crystal Bridges and Fisk. A hearing scheduled for Friday was postponed to Oct. 22.

Saul Cohen, president of the board of the Santa Fe, N.M., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, said the shared ownership would violate the agreement between Fisk and O’Keeffe concerning her donation.

“We, as a matter of law, have the right to file at any time for the return of the entire collection” to O’Keeffe’s successor, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Cohen told The Morning News.

Bob Workman, Crystal Bridges’ executive director, said the matter is between Fisk University and the O’Keeffe Museum.

“We really feel that it is inappropriate to comment at this time given the court situation,” he said.

A Fisk University spokesman did not return a call for comment.

The O’Keeffe Museum dropped its suit after the judge denied a settlement agreement allowing it to buy O’Keeffe’s 1927 oil painting, “Radiator Building Night, New York,” from Fisk for $7.5 million.

Crystal Bridges has said the deal would allow the collection to be kept intact and on public display, as well as help Fisk replenish its endowment and make campus improvements.

The Crystal Bridges Museum was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of the late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, and is scheduled to open in 2009.

On the Net:

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art:

Fisk University:

–Associated Press

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