Tennessee Governor Says Current Deal for Sale of Georgia O’Keeffe Collection Is Not in the Best Interests of Fisk University

For several years, Fisk University has been trying to raise money through the sale of artwork donated to the university in 1949 by Georgia O’Keeffe. But the university has been thwarted by a provision in the donation documents which stipulated that the collection must remain intact.

In its latest deal, Fisk has agreed to share the collection with the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. In return for a payment of $30 million, Fisk would send the collection to the museum for six months each year. A court hearing is scheduled for February.

But Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen now has gone on record as opposing the arrangement. He argues that the collection could be worth as much as $150 million and therefore Fisk is not receiving a fair offer for sharing the collection half of the time. Bredesen, a Democrat, is a graduate of Harvard University and previously served as mayor of Nashville, the city in which Fisk University is located.

Fisk University has stated that it will run out of operating funds if it is not permitted to make some sort of deal for the sale of the artwork.