Under the merger, most of the 17,000 artworks would be given to the National Gallery of Art, which would run exhibit programs in a smaller gallery space. Most of the building would be devoted to the art school as part of George Washington University. The Corcoran will give the university at least $35 million from recently sold art to pay for initial renovations, and the university will pay for future renovations.
Corcoran attorney Charles Patrizia argued the trustees had no choice but to seek support from larger institutions, citing $28 million in cumulative deficits since 2008 and 40 years of struggles. The Corcoran college's accreditation was endangered because of its financial problems, Patrizia said in court.
Opponents of the merger objected to the giveaway of Corcoran art and real estate, as well as the separation of the museum and college. They pointed to a recent turnaround of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, which also had considered merger and takeover options.
The opponents presented alternatives, including a proposal from a Washington philanthropist to lead a campaign with new donors who have said they would help make the Corcoran a world-class center for creativity.
While the judge found some criticism of the Corcoran's past management valid, he was not convinced the alternative proposals, "amorphous and aspirational as they are," would be as consistent with the Corcoran's founding purpose.
The judge noted the Corcoran founder's historic connection to George Washington University.
"Undoubtedly, Mr. Corcoran would not be pleased by this turn of events," Okun wrote. "It seems likely, however, that he would be pleased to see that the college will be preserved through its partnership with the very university to which he donated both property and his company's archives ... and that the gallery will be preserved through its partnership with one of the country's pre-eminent art institutions."
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