ARTnewsletter Archive

Fisk Appeals Recent Ruling on Handling of Stieglitz Collection

Just one month after a Tennessee court ruled that Fisk University, Nashville Tenn., can retain possession of its prized Alfred Stieglitz Collection of art, despite having “breached the conditions” under which it received the donated pieces, the university is appealing the stipulations attached to that judgment.

NEW YORK—Just one month after a Tennessee court ruled that Fisk University, Nashville Tenn., can retain possession of its prized Alfred Stieglitz Collection of art, despite having “breached the conditions” under which it received the donated pieces, the university is appealing the stipulations attached to that judgment.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle imposed a permanent mandatory injunction that prevents Fisk from selling the trove and set an October deadline for Fisk to remove it from storage and put it back on display.

According to a statement issued April 3 by the university, “the court’s decision [that] requires Fisk to continuously exhibit the Stieglitz collection [is] in direct contradiction of fundamental modern conservation practices wherein artworks are periodically removed from display. In short, the court’s order results in the inevitable deterioration of the collection.”

Fisk also reiterated its view that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.Mex. (formerly the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation), “does not have legal standing to object to the proposed course of action outlined by Fisk.” The O’Keeffe museum declined to comment on Fisk’s appeal.

Fisk was sued by the O’Keeffe Museum after making several attempts to leverage the art collection: first, by arranging to sell two important works; and, later, by drawing up an art-sharing agreement with Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, whose Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is scheduled to open in Bentonville, Ark., in 2010.

Painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) had donated the art—101 works from the collection of her deceased husband, American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)—to Fisk in 1949 on condition that they be kept together. Included were major pieces by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) and O’Keeffe herself (ANL, 11/13/07, pp. 2-3).

Fisk also reiterated in its statement that “the most discussed and well-financed opportunity for Fisk and Nashville to date is the agreement between Fisk and the Crystal Bridges Museum to sell a one-half undivided interest in the Collection. That agreement . . . is part of our appeal.”

Says Bob Workman, executive director of Crystal Bridges: “We continue to believe our innovative agreement with Fisk offers the best solution to this situation, and we hope Chancellor Lyle’s opinion prohibiting the sale of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection will be reversed on appeal.”

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