Art: The Impermanent Collection

As art prices soar, more institutions trade in their treasures

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand, by Thomas Eakins, 1874.

When he died in 1946, Alfred Stieglitz, the great photographer and tireless promoter of modern art, left his estate to his wife, the painter Georgia O'Keeffe. His work as a photographer she shrewdly distributed to the large American museums that could be counted on to secure his reputation. But a sizable part of his art collection O'Keeffe deposited in a less predictable place. At the urging of a friend, the Harlem Renaissance writer Carl Van Vechten, she gave 97 works to Fisk University, the historically black school in Nashville. And she threw in a few of her own. One of those...

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