Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Gives up Fight over Fisk University Art
After months of legal wrangling, Fisk University is no longer ensnared in a court battle with the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum over the school's Alfred Stieglitz Collection.
On Tuesday, the Santa Fe, N.M.-based museum dropped a lawsuit against Fisk that sought possession of the collection of 101 paintings, donated to the school in 1949 by painter Georgia O'Keeffe. The move opens the door wider for Fisk to consider an informal $30 million offer from Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton, who's building a museum in Arkansas.
"It would be an understatement to say we're happy," said Fisk University President Hazel O'Leary after learning the lawsuit had been dropped. O'Leary made the decision in December 2005 to sell two paintings from the Stieglitz Collection; the museum argued -- and Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle agreed -- that the sale would violate the painter's wishes.
"This has been a very long journey for Fisk, and it has most especially distracted my attention from the business of the university. I'm happy to go back to doing the full-time job of being president of Fisk."
The museum's decision comes one day after Lyle rejected an agreement that would have ended the lawsuit by leaving the museum in possession of the collection's most important painting, O'Keeffe's Radiator Building -- Night, New York. The financially beleaguered university would have received $7.5 million and the opportunity to display Radiator Building for four months every four years.
Lyle rejected the agreement, in part, because of a more appealing offer informally extended by the soon-to-open Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The Bentonville, Ark., museum would pay Fisk $30 million for a 50 percent interest in the collection, along with shared exhibition rights.