University of London Considering a Deaccession of Shakespeare Folios

The University of London is testing the deaccession waters, tentatively planning to auction four early Shakespeare folios. They were gifted to the University’s Senate House Library in 1956. The proposal to sell them has drawn the usual arguments about commodification of rare objects, and the possible reticence of future donors to donate their rare possessions: Continue reading “University of London Considering a Deaccession of Shakespeare Folios”

Fisk University Wins Appeal

OKeeffes Radiator Building
Georgia O’Keeffe Radiator Building

In a 2-1 decision Fisk University has won an appeal against the state of Tennessee which will allow it to sell a partial share in works of art to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. The Tennessean reports today that the proceeds from the sale can be used as Fisk sees fit, it will not have to set aside 2/3 ($20 million) of the proceeds to care for the art. This is the latest, but not the last ruling in a dispute which has been ongoing since Fisk decided in 2004 to help offset its financial difficulties by selling works of art donated by Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband Albert Stieglitz.

Fisk officials called the ruling a victory: “On behalf of the many students who attend and the faithful alumni and friends, we look forward to working out the details with the Chancery Court and the (Tennessee) Attorney General,” said Fisk President Hazel R. O’Leary. We will never know for certain whether O’Keeffe would have approved of the sale of part of the collection, and as a consequence sharing the art in the South equally between Fisk and Crystal Bridges makes good sense for the University and the Museum, and art patrons in the South. It seems an interesting bit of timing that just as the Court of Appeals released its decision, Crystal Bridges is opening as well. The long legal battle is nearly done, as it will now be up to The State Attorney General, Fisk and the Chancery Court of Davidson County to work out the final arrangements for the sale in accordance with the latest appellate ruling.

  1. Brian Haas, Court validates Fisk’s Georgia O’Keeffe art-sharing deal, Tennessean,  (last visited Nov 30, 2011).
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Footnotes

File:Apamea 02.jpg
The Cardo Maximus in Apamea in Syria

On a two-week trip to Paris, Mr. Lacoursière found himself loitering in the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, which were in so many ways the exact opposite of his beat at home where he toured the dirtiest corners of the human psyche. He returned to Montreal, vowing to find a way to incorporate his long-time love of art with his police work. So he enrolled in an art history night course at a local university.

She has a fellowship in the department of art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and is head of the department of antiquities in the breakaway territory of Somaliland, in the north-west region of Somalia. She is the only archaeologist working in the region.

It’s a remarkable journey for a girl who fled Mogadishu in 1991, aged 14, as Somalia descended into the chaos of civil war. Driving her forward is the urge to uncover and preserve a cultural heritage that has been systematically looted, both in colonial times and more recently by warlords trading national heritage for guns.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

The Leopold Settles and Deaccessions

“Countess Kuefstein at the Easel” by Anton  Romako will  stay at the Leopold

The Leopold Museum in Vienna has reached an undisclosed settlement with the heir of a Jewish “construction entrepreneur”  who had his collection of art seized by the Gestapo some time before 1941. In order to pay the settlement and others, the museum will have to sell two other paintings by Egon Schiele. No one is talking of these sales in terms of deaccession, but that is what they are doing. Those Schiele works were surely in the public trust:

The Leopold Museum is selling an Egon Schiele painting, “Houses With Colorful Washing,” at a Sotheby’s (BID) auction on June 22. The cityscape is expected to fetch as much as $50 million, a record for the artist.
The revenue will help to pay for “Wally,” a portrait by Schiele that was the subject of a decades-long restitution dispute. In July last year, the museum agreed to pay $19 million to the heirs of the Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray to keep the portrait, which was stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s.
Last month, the Leopold Museum agreed to pay $5 million to the granddaughter of Jenny Steiner, a Jewish silk-factory owner, to keep in its collection “Houses by the Sea,” another Schiele painting that was stolen by the Nazis.
  1. Catherine Hickley & Zoe Scheenweiss, Vienna’s Leopold Settles With Heir on Nazi-Looted Paintings, Bloomberg, June 20, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-20/vienna-s-leopold-settles-with-heir-on-nazi-looted-paintings.html (last visited Jun 21, 2011).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Who Benefits From the Stieglitz Collection at Fitz University?

So asks Boston University Law Prof. Alan Field in a piece on SSRN: Who Are the Beneficiaries of Fisk University’s Stieglitz Collection? Here is the abstract:

Most fiduciary relationships determine with specificity the beneficiaries of the fiduciary’s activities. Not-for-profit entities, however, serve a class of unspecified beneficiaries and can exercise discretion in determining who to serve and how to serve them. This paper explores the limits of discretion that recent litigation established for Fisk University in balancing its educational mission and its administration of a valuable art collection donated decades earlier. The paper analyzes the case as it addresses respect for donor conditions, changes in circumstance, standing issues, the doctrine of cy pres and the designation of the appropriate class of public beneficiaries. Race and geography also play contributing roles.

Well worth a read. Donn Zaretsky finds it “much more interesting” than the Attorney General’s brief in the very long legal battle over the present disposition of the collection.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com