NEW YORK—As the legal battle continues over the efforts of Randolph College, Lynchburg, Va., to raise funds by selling important works from its Maier Museum of Art collection, opponents of the planned sale won another temporary reprieve in court earlier this month (ANL, 11/13/07).
On Dec. 3, the Virginia Supreme Court granted an extension to a group of 19 plaintiffs who had filed suit in October to halt the sale, in a bid for time to raise bond money totaling $1 million. The bond is intended to secure an injunction to stop Randolph from selling four major paintings from the Maier Museum trove.
As of Dec. 3 the plaintiffs, consisting of alumni, current students, former staff, local citizens and donors, had raised $500,000 of the required amount, according to a statement from Preserve Educational Choice (PEC), a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve “diversity of educational choice” by supporting women’s colleges. (Formerly Randolph Macon Woman’s College, the school officially changed its name last August after taking the controversial step to admit men, an issue that had already fueled lawsuits.)
Virginia’s supreme court accepted the plaintiffs’ recent requests to modify the bond requirements, allowing them to post $500,000 on Dec. 3 and the remaining $500,000 by Feb. 15, 2008. Said Anne Yastremski, executive director of PEC and an alumna of Randolph: “We thank the supreme court for giving us the extra time we need to raise the additional funds. . . . We are confident we will be able to raise the remaining $500,000 by the next deadline.” The bond, originally set by the courts at $10 million, was lowered to $1 million on Nov. 16 after motions by the plaintiff seeking to reduce or eradicate the requested amount.
The four artworks in contention were withdrawn from planned sales last month at Christie’s New York, where they carried overall presale estimates of $32/45.5 million. They include: George Bellows’ Men of the Docks, 1912 (estimate: $25/35 million); Ernest Martin Hennings’ Through the Arroyo (estimate: $1/1.5 million); Edward Hicks’ A Peaceable Kingdom, circa 1840-45 (estimate: $4/6 million); and Rufino Tamayo’s Troubador, 1945 (estimate: $2/3 million). Except for the Tamayo painting, all were scheduled for Christie’s American art auction on Nov. 29. For now, the works remain at Christie’s.
Randolph College trustees maintain that the sale of the paintings is crucial to the school’s fiscal health and ultimate survival. College spokeswoman Brenda Edson suggests that “what this temporary injunction does is delay the sale of the artworks. Now there will be a full hearing to determine whether we can sell [them]. The college is the owner, and there are no restrictions on sale for these four pieces. We firmly believe in our position and will continue to defend it vigorously in the court system. . . . The need to sell this artwork has not gone away.”
Edson reports that the decision of Randolph’s trustees to sell the paintings was a “painful” one that “wasn’t made out of greed. It was made out of survival. We have to ensure our future as a college. What seems to have been lost in the emotion of this issue is the fact that if there is no college in the future, there will be no artworks either.”