A trial to determine whether Fisk University can sell a stake in an art collection donated by Georgia O’Keeffe won’t begin until February despite the historically Black university’s precarious financial situation, a judge has ruled.
Fisk’s lawyers had argued the trial should be set before the end of the year because the school is projected to run out of cash by Dec. 15.
But Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle agreed with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., and the state attorney general’s offices that such an early trial date wouldn’t leave enough time for lawyers to prepare.
“Basic and essential pretrial procedures and trial preparation cannot be accomplished, even on an expedited schedule, by the end of the year,” Lyle said in her order issued Wednesday.
A three-day trial is now scheduled for Feb. 19. A Fisk spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Fisk is seeking approval to sell a 50 percent stake in the 101-piece collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for $30 million. Under that arrangement the collection would travel between Nashville and the Bentonville, Ark., museum founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.
The artworks given to Fisk in 1949 include O’Keeffe’s own 1927 oil painting “Radiator Building Night, New York,” and works by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marsden Hatley, Charles Demuth and Alfred Maurer.
The artworks were part of the nearly 1,000-piece collection of O’Keeffe’s husband, photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz, that she gave away after he died in 1946.
The O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, which represents the late artists’ estate, argues Fisk’s sale to Crystal Bridges should be rejected because of O’Keeffe’s gift condition that her donation not be sold.
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