Fisk University Gets Permission to Sell Paintings In Order to Raise Cash

Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, Tennessee, has expressed a desire to sell two paintings in order to raise cash for the financially strapped university. But the paintings belong to the Stieglitz Collection which was donated to Fisk by artist Georgia O’Keeffe with the stipulation that the collection not be broken up. The collection, which contains many O’Keeffe paintings, belonged to Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer who was married to O’Keeffe. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, filed suit to stop the sale because, in the view of the museum’s board, any sale violated the stipulation made by O’Keeffe when she made the donation expressing that the collection remain intact.

Now the Tennessee attorney general, who oversees legal issues involving charitable donations in the state, has brokered a deal that will provide Fisk with the money it needs. Fisk has until the middle of this month to find donors who would ante up $16 million in order to keep the collection at the university. If donors cannot be found, Fisk will sell one painting to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for $7 million. The other painting can be sold on the open market to someone in Tennessee. The buyer must agree to provide viewing access to the public.

Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. said that complying with Georgia O’Keeffe’s request to preserve the collection was “not worth the risk of financially crippling one of the preeminent black colleges and universities in the nation.”