Appeals Court Overturns Ruling Over Fisk University’s Sale of Georgia O’Keeffe Collection

The first many people, including us, had heard of the now-open Crystal Bridges Museum was way back in early 2009 when controversy erupted over Fisk University‘s efforts in trying to sell off its large collection of famous and valuable paintings, donated by Georgia O’Keeffe, to WalMart heiress Alice Walton‘s new museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Over the next two years, there was lots of back and forth, where they’d get the go ahead, only to be pushed back by courts or Tennessee’s attorney general, and then start all over again with new plans to help the cash-strapped school unload its treasures. At last we’d left it, just over a year ago, a judge had given Fisk the okay to sell a portion of the collection to Crystal Bridges, but could only use a portion of the $30 million it expected to receive to pay its bills. Per usual in this debate, they weren’t happy with the decision and vowed to keep fighting. Now it appears they’ve had at least a minor victory. The Wall Street Journal reports that a state appeals court has thrown out that previous ruling, saying the judge didn’t have the authority to make that decision. Hypothetically, that means they’ll now have access to the full $30 million. However, the paper reports that the appeals court wants Fisk to explain how it intends to use the money and what it’s done with the $1 million Alice Walton donated to help care for the collection. What’s more, the attorney general, who was one of the main forces agains the sale, “has not yet decided whether to seek an appeal to the state Supreme Court,” which could once again shut Fisk’s plans down entirely.