(CN) – Fisk University in Nashville may be able to sell some of its 101-piece Georgia O’Keeffe art collection, an appeals court judge ruled, finding that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has no right to intervene in the sale.
Fisk filed a declaratory action in 2005, seeking to sell two pieces of its valuable collection, including O’Keeffe’s “Radiator Building – Night, New York” and Marsden Hartley’s “Painting No. 3.”
O’Keeffe had donated the art in the 1940s under strict conditions: the university could never sell any part of the collection and all of the pieces had to be displayed together at the school.
Although the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum initially offered $7.5 million for “Radiator Building,” its bid was trumped by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which offered Fisk $30 million in exchange for a 50 percent interest in the collection.
The museum sought to intervene in the sale, stating that because the school had violated conditions of the artist’s donation, “the entire collection reverted to the museum, as successor-in-interest to (O’Keeffe’s) estate.”
But Judge Clement ruled that the museum has no standing, as the artist’s life estate and her special power of appointment over her husband’s portion of the collection did not survive her death.
Furthermore, there is no proof that O’Keeffe wished to keep a reversionary interest in the pieces that she donated to the university, Clement ruled.
Because the artist had a “general charitable intent” when she donated the collection, the trial court must determine whether Fisk is entitled to cy pres relief upon remand.