AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum
Fisk Selling Part of Art Collection
College Argues For the Right To Sell Art Gifts To Raise Capital
By Bravetta Hassell
Just what obligation does a school have to hold on to its gifts of artwork?
It's a question that Fisk University has been grappling with for months as it seeks to sell two paintings from its Alfred Stieglitz Collection to raise much-needed funds. At the moment, however, its plans have succeeded only in raising the ire of some art lovers.
The Nashville school is awaiting a court ruling on whether it can sell a Georgia O'Keeffe painting and a Marsden Hartley painting, both part of the 101-piece collection, which was donated to the historically black college nearly 60 years ago by Stieglitz's widow -- O'Keeffe herself.
The collection also includes works by such artists as CÚzanne, Renoir, Picasso, Arthur Dove and John Marin, as well as some of Stieglitz's photography. According to an IRS filing, Fisk's entire art collection was appraised at $31.4 million in 2002.
"I'm sorry that it has come to this, but I support the president in this decision," Denise Billye Sanders, chairwoman of Fisk's General Alumni Association, says of the move by school President Hazel O'Leary. "We're selling to keep the rest of our collection."
O'Keeffe's "Radiator Building -- Night, New York" and "Painting No. 3" by Hartley could fetch as much as $20 million if sold privately, speculates Gerald Peters, president of the Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., which has sold Hartley paintings comparable to "No. 3."
"[They] could easily bring in 10 million each," says Peters, predicting that "Radiator Building" could break a record set by Christie's, which sold O'Keeffe's "Calla Lilies With Red Anemone" for $6.1 million in 2001.