How did a historically black institution in Nashville obtain the $60 million collection? The story dates back to 1949, when O’Keefe donated 97 pieces from the estate of her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, which included works by Picasso, Renoir and Cezanne to Fisk. She died in 1986 and willed a few of her own paintings with a stipulation that the collection may not be sold or broken up. The University used to spend over $100,000 annually on displaying the collection and alleged that it could not afford to keep the collection according to the terms of the gift.
Following a protracted legal fight with the state attorney general, Fisk’s plans to sell some of the works in the collection were granted and an innovative solution included shared custody of the works, which would move between Arkansas and Tennessee every two years.