Nashville's Fisk University said Thursday it is appealing a recent court decision ordering it to display the valuable art collection U.S. painter Georgia O'Keeffe donated to the school.


Georgia O'Keeffe, seen in 1931 in a photo by husband Alfred Stieglitz, put conditions on her gift: the collection was to remain intact and on display. ((Metropolitan Museum of Art/Vancouver Art Gallery))

"The court’s decision requires Fisk to continuously exhibit the Stieglitz Collection in direct contradiction of fundamental modern conservation practices wherein artworks are periodically removed from display," the school said in a statement.

This action "results in the inevitable deterioration of the collection. Prudence requires that we appeal the court's order to maintain the art in a manner consistent with contemporary conservation methods."  

The school, which has struggled with its finances in the past, has been embroiled in a dispute with New Mexico's Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, representing the artist's estate.

The museum has attempted to gain rights over the artwork and objected to the school's attempts to sell individual artworks or a share of the whole collection to another gallery in Arkansas, as well as the school's removal of the art from display since 2005.

The museum accused the school of going against O'Keeffe's original stipulation that the collection — the majority of which had belonged to her late husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz — remain intact to be displayed for students, staff and the public.

In March, Tennessee Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the collection should remain at the school, but also permanently banned Fisk from selling any of the art.

During the court battle, Fisk officials argued that the collection had been put in storage only because its gallery was being renovated and that a rush of recent donations to the school would allow it to quickly complete the work and remount the art.

University officials noted Thursday that in spite of the appeal, the school is still working to return the collection to display at its Carl van Vechten Art Gallery by the October 6 deadline set by the judge.

O'Keeffe donated the 101-piece collection of modern American and European art to Fisk in 1949. Valued at more than $70 million US, it includes work by O'Keeffe herself as well as artists including Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

With files from the Associated Press