Indiana University’s Plan for Selling Art to Fund Dorm Renovations

Indiana University's Plan to Sell $10M. Worth of Art to Fund Dorm Renovations Overcomes Legal Hurdle.

Nov 23, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Indiana University's
Brauer Museum of Art. Wikipedia


Indiana University’s of selling art collections to improve its dorm space gets past legal opstacle. Overall, a judge rejected an action regarding the planned sale of three significant artworks. This paintings come from the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University, Indiana. The artworks’ sale might net up to $10 million for upgrades.

The Case Against the Sale Could Not Proceed

Indiana University's
The Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University. Photo courtesy of the Brauer Museum of art.


Judge Jeffrey Thode of Porter County Superior Court decided that the case attempting to halt the university’s intended sale of the pieces could not proceed. Why? Richard Brauer and Philipp Brockington, the plaintiffs, lacked sufficient standing to file the lawsuit. They do not have a direct relationship with the trust that gave the artwork to the college’s institution back in 1953.


Richard Brauer was the founding director of the Valparaiso University Art Museum. The school got this name in 1996, to honor him. He was a former professor of legal studies at school who retired. Also, he was a contributor to an endowment fund established for the museum. The pieces in question are 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).


modern artists okeeffe gaspe painting, Indiana University's
Nature Forms – Gaspé by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1932, via Sotheby’s


The school moved the pieces to an off-site, protected place. The works’ cumulative auction price could reach $10 million. A bequest estate arrangement existed in 1953 between Valparaiso University and collector Percy H. Sloan. The agreement stated that “the collection shall be open to the public generally during … reasonable hours…; it being the intention of the parties to make the benefits of this collection available to all persons”.


 The Lack of Students

red canna georgia okeeffe 1915 1925
Red Canna by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1915, via The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

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It did not specify how any of the artworks in the donation would sell in the future; even though it mandated that items from Sloan’s collection be on display in a designated area.  “the plan is consistent with the donor’s intent in that it will result in more students on campus and more students able to appreciate the art displayed at the university”, Valparaiso University president Jose D. Padilla also spoke about it.


Also, the university’s lawyer Randal J. Kaltenmark wrote to Scott Barnhart. Barnhart is director of protecting consumers and chief counsel in the state Attorney General’s office. The lawyer claims Valparaiso intends to use the funds to renovate the freshman quarters. This is also a part of broader programme to deal with the drop in enrollment.


hassam childe red cross nurse painting
Red Cross Nurse by Childe Hassam, 1918, via Toledo Museum


Enrollment  dropped from approximately 4,500 to approximately 3,000 students during the previous five years. If selling the pieces violates the conditions of the donor, that is expected to be determined by the Indiana State Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.