Sunday, December 05, 2010

"The saga of Fisk University's art collection goes on."

Fisk is appealing the latest ruling in the litigation concerning the Stieglitz Collection. Jennifer Brooks has the story in the Nashville Tennessean. The New York Times is here. (As an aside, the Times story states, as a fact, almost in passing, that the Collection was "given to [Fisk] as a public trust by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe." What does that even mean? How do you give something "as a public trust"? Doesn't that assume an answer to a central issue in the case?)

You will recall that Judge Lyle allowed the Crystal Bridges deal to go through, but ruled that Fisk could keep only $10 million of the $30 million in sales proceeds. The other $20 million had to go to an endowment fund dedicated to support of the Collection. Fisk President Hazel O'Leary says the annual cost of maintaining the Collection is $130,000 and, if you assume $1 million in income from the $20 million endowment, that's $870,000 that could be used "for educational purposes, to attract high quality scholars and researchers to the faculty, to provide scholarships to [students], or to maintain the many historic buildings which require constant repairs on our campus."

school adds that in 2008 they spent about $1 million to upgrade the gallery that houses the works and that Crystal Bridges's Alice Walton "has contractually agreed ... to establish a million dollar endowment" to care for the Collection. (The sharing agreement, in and of itself, also provides Crystal Bridges with great incentive to make sure the works are properly cared for.)

The Tennessee AG's office says bring it on ("We welcome the opportunity to urge the court of appeals to fashion a solution … that will fulfill the donor's intent and keep the Stieglitz Collection in Nashville and available to Fisk students full-time"), which points up the risk Fisk is taking in filing the appeal. They could lose the $10 million and end up with nothing.