A few years ago I wrote about the strange situation at Tennessee’s Fisk University. In 1949 the artist Georgia O’Keeffe gave 101 of her paintings to the historically black school. Fisk, which has suffered financial problems in recent years, can no longer afford to maintain the art college and wanted to sell it to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Arkansas museum recently built by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. Numerous legal problems ensued; it wasn’t really clear Fisk had the power to sell the art collection.

They’re reached a compromise. According to an article at Art Daily:

The agreement for sharing the Stieglitz Art Collection… was finalized by the Chancery Court and the Tennessee Attorney General on June 13 and filed by the Davidson County Chancery Court on July 31. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Fisk University each now own a 50 percent interest in the collection, which will be exhibited at both institutions at rotating two-year intervals. The agreement will allow the works to remain on display at Fisk for two uninterrupted years out of every four, thus allowing every Fisk student the opportunity to view or study the artwork for a period during the student’s academic career.

The Stieglitz Collection will be available for view and study by a wide audience at Crystal Bridges during its alternating two-year stay in Bentonville, Ark. Once planning and coordination between Fisk University and Crystal Bridges has been completed, a debut exhibition schedule will be announced.

The original agreement between O’Keefe and Fisk stipulated that the collection never be sold. By the agreement with Crystal Bridges the college will only be sort of sold. Crystal Bridges will pay the university $74 $30 million for the rights to display the college.

O’Keefe’s original agreement stipulated that if Fisk was unable to properly house the art ownership would revert to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.[Image of O’Keefe’s “Flying Backbone” via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer