The Ongoing Saga of the Fisk University Art Collection

For several years now, Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, has been trying to sell all or part of its 101-piece Stieglitz Collection, which was donated to the university by artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The collection includes many paintings by O’Keeffe, as well as other works. The collection is valued at about $75 million.

But a stipulation in the O’Keeffe gift says that the collection cannot be sold and must be displayed. Fisk University maintains that it needs funds from the sale of the art to remain financially viable. The university had planned to loan the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for six months each year. The museum would pay Fisk $30 million. But this plan has also been rejected by the court.

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper put forth a plan to move the collection to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in downtown Nashville. Fisk officials called the proposal a “theft” and students mounted a protest against the plan. A chancellory court judge has now rejected the attorney general’s plan and has given the parties until October 8 to come up with an alternative.