Thursday, November 04, 2010

"The Court adopts none of the proposals outright. Instead, the Court orders a different plan." (UPDATED)

Judge Lyle issues what Lee Rosenbaum calls her "latest astonishing" ruling in the Fisk case: she will let the Crystal Bridges deal go through, but Fisk can keep only $10 million of the sales proceeds. The other $20 million has to go into an endowment fund outside of Fisk's control, to ensure that, even if Fisk were to someday close, the collection could remain (partially) in Nashville. The ruling is here. Robin Pogrebin's New York Times story is here. The Nashville Tennessean story -- "Fisk art ruling upsets both sides" -- is here.

Why the 10/20 split? Because "allocating Fisk $30 million from the sale ... is out of proportion to the role Ms. O'Keeffe designed for Fisk." I'm not sure what that means. Was the "role" O'Keeffe "designed" for Fisk equal to one-third of the, um, total "roles" involved in the gift? Or that helping Fisk was (exactly) half as important to O'Keeffe (as measured by the old intent-o-meter) as making sure the work never left Nashville? It seems a little arbitrary to me.

Lee calls it a "lose-lose decision" and calls on the AAMD to punish Crystal Bridges (because collection sharing among museums is, of course, verboten). She also refers to "some additional Walton largesse [that] may be in offing" -- i.e., an agreement to fund a $1 million endowment to care for the collection -- but I believe that was always part of the deal. See, e.g., this 2007 NYT article noting that Walton "also pledged $1 million to renovate and maintain the Fisk gallery that houses the collection and to finance an art internship."

UPDATE: Derek Fincham weighs in:

"I just do not see the injustice [in the Crystal Bridges transaction]. A financially troubled and storied institution, whom O'Keeffe wanted to support decades ago, can receive a much-needed benefit with the partial sale of works of art that can be better preserved and seen by a wider audience."