Tennessee Attorney General Halts Fisk University Sale of Georgia O’Keeffe Painting

In order to boost its endowment, Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, Tennessee, planned to sell two paintings from its art collection. One of the paintings was the work of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe had donated the art collection, which she assembled along with her husband, to Fisk with the stipulation that the collection not be broken up. When the university attempted to sell the two paintings, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe filed a lawsuit to stop the sale. An agreement was reached that Fisk would sell the O’Keeffe painting to the museum for $7 million and could sell the other artwork, not painted by O’Keeffe, on the open market.

But after the agreement was reached, it became apparent that the O’Keeffe painting was worth as much as $25 million. Bob Cooper, the attorney general of Tennessee, whose office oversees legal issues concerning charitable gifts made to people or institutions in the state, voided the sale. Cooper claimed that the sale was not in the best interest of Fisk University or the people of Tennessee.

A court hearing is scheduled for July 18.