Weisman Museum to return art in contract settlement

V. Paul

The University has terminated its contract with the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation and agreed to return $1 million in art, ending an 11-month legal dispute over management of the University’s Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.
The Los Angeles-based foundation announced Thursday terms of the University’s agreement to regain control of the museum and its educational mission.
The University sued the foundation in Hennepin County District Court in October 1998 for failing to transfer ownership of the art works to the University and for hampering the museum’s educational mission.
“We are very pleased with the terms of the settlement,” said Karen Casanova, the museum’s spokeswoman. “The settlement has eliminated any question of the University’s control of the museum.”
Under the agreement, the Board of Regents and the museum’s director will retain exclusive operational control of the museum, said Mark Rotenberg, the University’s general counsel.
The settlement, reached early this month, also gives the museum the “Pedicord Apartments” piece by Edward and Nancy Kienholz and potentially two Duane Hanson sculptures and two portraits of Frederick R. Weisman. These pieces were on loan to the museum from the foundation.
The museum will return about 34 other pieces, valued at $1 million, also on loan from the foundation. The settlement stipulates that the museum hold a farewell exhibit before the artwork is returned. Work has not yet begun on that exhibit, which might also include pieces from the foundation’s collection in California, Casanova said.
Both the foundation and the University will share in the cost of the exhibit, although the University’s share will not exceed $50,000, Rotenberg said.
The museum will draw from its collection of 17,000 art pieces to replace the returned works, Casanova said. The museum has been collecting since its inception in 1934, when it was housed in Northrop Memorial Auditorium. Only 40 to 50 pieces are ever exhibited at one time, she said.
The settlement, which terminates the 1989 agreement between the University and the foundation, has no financial implication for the University; neither party will pay damages or costs, according to a joint statement released by the foundation and the museum.
Negotiations for a settlement began last year just after the lawsuit was filed, Rotenberg said.
The severance of the formal relationship between the foundation and the museum will not alter the museum’s financial standing because there was no ongoing financial support from the foundation, Casanova said.
The museum will retain its name and will not have to return the donation made by Frederick R. Weisman which enabled the museum to move to its new location in 1993, Rotenberg said.

V. Paul Virtucio covers courts and welcomes comments at [email protected]