A Lawsuit Aimed at Halting the Brauer Museum’s Controversial Deaccessioning Plan Is Dismissed

An Indiana judge ruled that Richard Brauer, the museum’s founding director, lacked standing to file the lawsuit.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Rust Red Hills (1930). Collection of the Brauer Museum of Art at Indiana's Valparaiso University.

An Indiana judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the Brauer Museum at Valparaiso University from deaccessioning three paintings to fund a freshman dorm.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Jeffery Thode ruled on October 26 that Richard Brauer, the museum’s founding director, and retired law professor emeritus Philipp Brockington lacked standing to file the lawsuit, court documents show.

Brauer and Brockington filed the suit after university president Jose Padilla announced the planned sale of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Rust Red Hills (1930), Frederic E. Church’s Mountain Landscape (1865), and Childe Hassam’s The Silver Veil and the Golden Gate (1914) in February.

Brockington is the benefactor of a fund to endow the Brauer Museum and the works had been donated by a trust established by the estate of Percy Sloan on behalf of his predeceased parents, Junius R. Sloan and Sara Spencer Sloan, in order to “serve and promote the cause of art education in both a practical and cultural way.”

Brauer and Brockington argued that the selling of the paintings violated the donor trust agreement and last will and testament of Percy Sloan, who died in 1950.

Percy Sloan had bought the Church painting at an auction for just $22. It was part of the original trust collection, donated to the university in 1953, and arrived on campus several years after the agreement was reached. Bauer acquired the O’Keefe painting for $5,700 in 1962 and Hassam’s painting for $9,000 in 1967, both on behalf of the trust.

But the school had argued in a motion to dismiss the case that Brauer and Brockington lacked standing to sue, because they are not “settlers, beneficiaries, personal representatives, or any other person having an interest in the administrative of trust as a matter of law.”

The lawsuit was filed against Valparaiso University, as well as Padilla and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. The school argued in its motion that the only way under state law that the school’s decisions could be challenged is if Rokita was a plaintiff.

Thode gave Brauer and Brockington 10 days to file an amended complaint to address issues in naming Rokita as a defendant. No further records appear in a court database, indicating that the plaintiffs did not file an amended complaint within the allotted time frame—an apparent final end to the dispute.

“In light of this heightened activity, and in accordance with the university’s responsibility to safeguard these works, they have been relocated to a secure off-site location out of an abundance of caution,” Padilla said in a news release carried by the student newspaper.

“The off-site location is not that of an art broker. No final decision about their possible sale has been made and the works will remain relocated for their protection for the foreseeable future.”

 

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