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Corcoran Gallery responds to lawsuit trying to block takeover deal

Corcoran Gallery contends that only the attorney general can intervene at this point

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington has responded to a lawsuit filed earlier this summer by a group trying to block the financially troubled institution's planned takeover deal with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

In a court filing this week, lawyers for the Corocoran said that the lawsuit was seeking "obstruction for the sake of obstruction" and that the takeover is the "most appropriate arrangement" to preserve the Corcoran's art collection and the renovation of the Corcoran's beaux-arts-style building.

The suit, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleges mismanagement and negligence by the Corcoran's leadership. It was filed by a group of individuals, called Save the Corcoran, that is composed of donors, members, students and others. The takeover deal is awaiting approval by a District of Columbia court, but the lawsuit is seeking to halt the deal before it is finalized.

Corcoran lawyers argued in their filing that the plaintiffs aren't in a legal position to intervene at this point in the takeover proceedings. The Corcoran stated that only the attorney general has the legal standing to assert the public interest at this stage.

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

In addition, George Washington University would absorb the Corcoran College of Art + Design, a private educational institution.

The Corcoran has experienced financial difficulties for years and has explored several options for takeovers or mergers with other institutions. Members of the Save the Corcoran group allege that the institution's leaders have mismanaged its finances.

The Corcoran lawyers said in their filing that the Save the Corcoran group doesn't represent current students or staff, and that its efforts would be harmful to those affiliated with the Corcoran.

Staff at the Corcoran are likely to face layoffs as the takeover deal nears conclusion. A report in the Washington Business Journal this week stated that about a third of the Corcoran’s 465 employees are expected to lose their jobs as soon as mid-August.

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