Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fisk News

Forfeiting his neutrality, the Tennessee Attorney General has filed his appellate brief in what Nashville Public Radio accurately calls the "drawn out Fisk art case."  The brief is here.  I haven't read it yet, but in the meantime:

Lee Rosenbaum has a fairly testy exchange with the executive director of the Crystal Bridges Museum, which is attempting to enter into a collection sharing arrangement with Fisk (and we all know that sharing arrangements between museums are a terrible thing).

And the Charity Governance Blog's Jack Siegel has a response to the Attorney General and others who argue the decision "will deter donors from making gifts to Tennessee charitable institutions out of concern that their wishes will not be respected after they are dead":

"Let's get real here.  We are just as much in favor of honoring donor intent as the next guy, but does the Tennessee Attorney General really believe donors are busy reading Chancellor Lyle's prolific output?  ... But even if the Tennessee Attorney General is correct about donor reaction to Chancellor Lyle's ruling, don't her collective rulings in this case send a clear message: Donor beware.  If you are going to tie up property for the ages, you had better clearly state your intentions and build flexibility into the restrictions, or those who come after you will ignore your wishes.  At some point, donors have to be responsible in how they deed property.  Society should not have to countenance donor sloppiness by wasting additional resources--imagine the legal fees that have been devoted to this battle.  There is nothing wrong with a message that says we will honor your intent to the extent you clearly express it, but after that, all bets are off."

I had some thoughts on donor intent here (among other places).  As I asked there, what if the donor's intent was that the collection be destroyed after some number of years?  Or that the works be sold off and the proceeds used for operating expenses?  Is the rule really that the donor's intent is always the be all and end all?  Or does it only matter when it's a way to prevent work from being sold (or put another way:  are the Donor Intent Police just the Deaccession Police in a different uniform?).