Art Law Report

Corcoran Merger Approved, Cy Prés Ruling Treats Deaccession as Non-Starter in Concluding that Status Quo is Untenable

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM

As reported initially, Judge Robert Okun of the District of Columbia Superior Court allowed yesterday the cy prés petition by the trustees of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The full opinion can be read here. The petition asked to reform the trust of William Corcoran to permit a merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, a merger that will now proceed. The ruling addresses the financial condition of the Corcoran at length, but what is perhaps most interesting is the court’s acceptance of a central argument made by the Corcoran that selling its artwork to shore up its finances was an unacceptable way to proceed. This adopts the view, espoused most prominently by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), that deaccessioning for anything other than the purchase or care of art is anathema. Right or wrong, that acceptance in this opinion should have long lasting effects. Framing the question in this way was a work of skilled lawyering by the Corcoran’s attorneys, and kudos must go as well to the interveners and their counsel, without whom the other side of the story would have had no advocates at the trial. Those interveners have stated that they do not intend to appeal, meaning the case is over. Jayme McLellan, founder of Save the Corcoran, issued a statement after the ruling that “The Corcoran as we know it is gone. We fought the good fight." Incidentally, in response to our earlier reporting of McLellan’s role, I received an e-mail yesterday from Mimi Carter, the Corcoran’s Vice President, Marketing & Communication. Ms. Carter stated “Jayme McLellan was not fired from the Corcoran. She resigned in 2012, as mentioned on the first day of court hearings, citing differences with leadership. While there was a miscommunication with Ms. McLellan because of a lack of internal systems, due to a diminished staff and finances, she was not offered a contract to teach this coming Fall. Statements of retaliation are simply false.”

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Topics: Donn Zaretsky, Middles States Commission on Higher Education, Harry Hopper III, Anne Smith, Deaccession, Kathy Raffa, National Gallery of Art, Chiara Trabucchi, Industrial Economics, Jayme McLellan, William Corcoran, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, sanctions, Corcoran Merger, University of Maryland, Deaccessioning, Cy Pres, Judge Robert Okun, Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, District of Columbia Superior Court, AAM Code of Ethics, Corcoran College of Art + Design, Lauren Stack, Alexander Haas, Paul Johnson, Trusts, Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Steven Knapp, Corcoran Gallery, Museums, New York Times, Sean O’Connor, Caroline Lacey, MSCHE, Dr. Wallach Loh, Deaccessioning Blog, Art Law Report, Mimi Carter, National Public Radio

Corcoran Cy Prés Trial Wraps Up, Whether Judge Thinks Deaccessioning is Worse than the Alternatives Will Influence Final Result

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 13, 2014 at 7:45 AM

The two-week trial over the possible reformation of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art + Design ended last week, with Judge Robert Okun expected to rule by the end of the month.

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Topics: Deaccession, National Gallery of Art, Jayme McLellan, Andrew Tulumello, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, Charles Patrizia, Deaccessioning, Cy Pres, Judge Robert Okun, Corcoran College of Art + Design, William Corcoran¸ Kriston Capps, Trusts, Corcoran Gallery, Museums, Lynn Sures, Peggy Loar, The Atlantic, Corcoran

Not so Fast—Intervention into Corcoran Cy Pres Case Allowed for Current Students and Employees, “Save the Corcoran” Turned Away

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 21, 2014 at 9:49 AM

The Washington Business Journal‘s Rebecca Cooper tweeted today from the courtroom today that District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert Okun has allowed in part the motion to intervene in the Corcoran Gallery cy prés petition. Reports are that current students of the College of Art + Design, as well as current Corcoran employees were allowed to intervene, while intervention was denied to the organization “Save the Corcoran” and past employees and students.

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Topics: Donn Zaretsky, Deaccession, Washington Business Journal, National Gallery of Art, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, Lee Rosenbaum, Rebecca Cooper, Cy Pres, Judge Robert Okun, District of Columbia Superior Court, Corcoran College of Art + Design, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Trusts, Corcoran Gallery, District of Columbia, Museums

District of Columbia DA Supports Corcoran Cy Pres Petition, Focuses on Potential Sanctions for Deaccession

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 17, 2014 at 10:19 AM

The Washington, DC District Attorney Irvin Nathan has filed his brief concerning the Corcoran Gallery’s cy prés petition to reform the museum and College of Art + Design with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. To put it succinctly, “The District supports entry of the Proposed Order because the proposed cy pres relief will allow the Corcoran’s assets to continue to be used in D.C. consistently with the charitable purposes to which they have been dedicated.” The brief also addresses and bears on the question of the “Save the Corcoran” motion to intervene and standing, which will be argued tomorrow (which the underlying petition will not). The DA brief leans heavily on the downside of the alternative: deaccession leading to industry sanction, which may be a little circular.

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Topics: Deaccession, National Gallery of Art, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, Cy Pres, Corcoran College of Art + Design, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Trusts, Corcoran Gallery, District of Columbia, Museums

Corcoran Trustees Respond to “Save the Corcoran” Motion to Intervene, Argue That Challengers Lack Distinct Interest

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 15, 2014 at 7:43 AM

The trustees of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art +Design have responded to the recent motion by a group of students, faculty, staff, and interested supporters have filed a motion to intervene in the Corcoran’s cy prés petition to merge with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The proposed interveners, led by a group called “Save the Corcoran,” argues that the modification is unjustified and fails to take alternatives into account. More seriously, the motion to intervene accuses the trustees of “peculiar and egregious mismanagement.” We reviewed the motion when it was filed. While it goes over the case against merger, the challenge they face is demonstrating a specific and particular interest not already represented by a party to the case. One never knows, but that seemed unlikely to us. Even if unsuccessful, however, the motion lays out a passionate case against the merger that will be in the record one way or another.

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Topics: Deaccession, National Gallery of Art, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, Cy Pres, Corcoran College of Art + Design, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Trusts, Washington Post, Corcoran Gallery, District of Columbia, Museums

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