Fisk University Files Appeal to Sell Share of Art

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Fisk University still wants to sell a share of an art collection that painter Georgia O’Keeffe donated to the school almost 60 years ago.

The school is appealing a decision by a Nashville chancellor that banned any sale of the 101-piece collection that includes works by O’Keeffe, Picasso and Renoir. Fisk wants to sell a 50 percent share of the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., for $30 million.

Under the proposal, Fisk and Crystal Bridges would each display the collection half the time.

In March, Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle also set an October deadline for Fisk to retrieve the artwork from storage and display it. Lyle ruled that Fisk broke the terms of the donation but shouldn’t lose the collection.

School attorneys argue in a state appellate court filing dated Friday that the proposed sale does not violate O’Keeffe original intent in making the donation.

O’Keeffe donated the art to the historically Black university in 1949, a time when segregation prevented Southern Blacks from visiting many museums.

The collection belonged to O’Keeffe’s husband, photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz. It also includes pieces by Cezanne, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer and Charles Demuth.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico had sued to gain the rights to the collection because of the school’s attempts to sell paintings and because they weren’t being displayed. The Santa Fe museum is the legal representative of the late artist’s estate.

Experts estimate the entire collection could be worth well more than $100 million on the open market.

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