Corcoran Gallery of Art faces lawsuit over takeover deal

Corcoran Gallery of Art faces lawsuit over takeover deal
A view of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. (Kevin Wolf / Associated Press)

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington has been hit with a lawsuit that is seeking to halt the institution's planned takeover deal with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

A group consisting of Corcoran donors, staff, students, alumni and members has filed a suit in D.C. Superior Court, alleging mismanagement and negligence by the Corcoran's leadership.


Court papers show that the plaintiffs, who have banded together in a group called Save the Corcoran, are seeking to stop the takeover, arguing that the deal "would destroy the Corcoran forever." They have placed much of the blame on the museum's trustees, saying that the board has mishandled the institution's finances over the years.

In February, the Corcoran announced that it had entered a deal under which it would be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The Corcoran has long faced financial difficulties and had been exploring merger or takeover possibilities for years.

The takeover deal is awaiting approval by a District of Columbia court. The new lawsuit is seeking to halt the deal before it is finalized.

"In the last several years alone, the board has engaged in a bewildering, mystifying series of steps that violate its trust obligations and charter and cast its judgment into serious question," the plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit.

The suit refers to the museum's 19th century charter from founder William Corcoran, which set out the mission of the organization to be the perpetual maintenance of a public gallery and museum.

A Corcoran spokeswoman said in a statement sent to The Times: "We have no substantive comment as Corcoran attorneys have not read the motion as of yet."

Under the takeover deal, the National Gallery would assume responsibility for the Corcoran Gallery's 17,000-piece collection with the expectation that it will eventually accession, or acquire, the bulk of it.

George Washington University would take over responsibility of the Corcoran building, which is near the White House in downtown Washington. The university will also absorb the Corcoran College of Art + Design, a private institution with facilities in downtown and in Georgetown.

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