ABC News reports that a judge in Nashville has ruled that Fisk University can enter into a $30 million sharing agreement with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The judge set terms: Fisk may only use $10 million for the university; the rest must go into an endowment to support the collection.
That means Alice Walton's museum in Bentonville will own 50 percent of the Alfred Stieglitz collection — donated to Fisk by Georgia O'Keeffe and including O'Keeffe's "Radiator Building" — and be able to exhibit the 20th century masterpieces there. The collection also includes work by French impressionists, though Crystal Bridges' focus is American art.
Here's the brief story. A Crystal Bridges spokesman said the museum, rising in Bentonville and possibly to open late next year of 2012, would have no comment.
CultureGrrl has more (including a link to the judge's ruling) on this development, which she terms a lose-lose situation.
This 35-page ruling would let Crystal Bridges get its hands on Fisk's modernist American masterpieces (contrary to the no-sale stipulation made by the collection's donor, artist Georgia O'Keeffe), but would deny the university most of its desired "large infusion of cash," without which, Fisk has repeatedly maintained, it "cannot continue to operate."
So the university would lose money it needs and it would lose the collection to Crystal Bridges (though not fully; it's a sharing agreement).
CultureGrrl isn't wild about the idea of Arkansas getting the art. "Let the appeals begin!" she writes, adding: "On second thought, let's just forget the whole thing. Crystal Bridges' unseemly megabucks collection-raiding campaign has dragged on way too long."
Is it unseemly for a museum to have megabucks? I get CultureGrrl's problem with Fisk's desire to use its art to keep the doors open — that's not what an art collection is for. Selling off your art or artifacts, while tempting, is unseemly. But, as I understand it, Fisk and Crystal Bridges are talking about a 50-50 share. Crystal Bridges isn't removing the art from Tennessee forever. Maybe the agreement should have been for $100 million instead of $30 million. But ... am I wrong here? I'm willing to listen.
Update 2: The alumna who offered to help Fisk with curation to keep the works in Tennessee responds:
IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Nicole Floyd
November 4, 2010 McNeely Pigott & Fox
STATEMENT FROM CAROL CRESWELL-BETSCH REGARDING CHANCERY COURT’S RULING ON FISK UNIVERSITY’S ALFRED STIEGLITZ
COLLECTION OF ART
“I am extremely disappointed in the court’s decision to allow Fisk University to sell a share of the Stieglitz Collection to Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. With the court judging that only $10 million may be used by Fisk to address its financial issues, this ruling saves neither the art nor the university. Keeping this in mind, I continue to support the creation and contributions to the Pearl Creswell Fund for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at Fisk University. This fund, available through The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, will allow the art to stay at my alma mater, to pay for the maintenance and display of the collection at no cost to Fisk, and to assure that the art is available for study at Fisk in Nashville for many years to come.”