The 1930 Georgia O'Keefe masterpiece 'Red Rust Hills' hangs in the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University. Staff file photo by William Skipworth
The 1930 Georgia O'Keefe masterpiece 'Red Rust Hills' hangs in the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University. Staff file photo by William Skipworth
A lawsuit brought by two former Valparaiso University professors attempting to block the sale of three pieces of artwork from the Brauer Museum of Art has been dismissed by a Porter County Superior Court judge.

Judge Jeffery Thode issued his ruling on Thursday granting the university, its president, Jose Padilla, and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, stating the defendants, Richard Brauer and Philipp Brockington, lacked standing to sue.

Brauer, the museum's founding director and namesake, and Brockington, a retired professor and museum benefactor, filed the lawsuit in April against VU, Padilla and Rokita to stop the sale of the paintings, which Padilla announced in Feburary 2023.

The artwork in question are Georgia O'Keefe's "Rust Red Hills," Frederic E. Church's "Mountain Landscape" and Childe Hassam's "The Silver Vale and the Golden Gate."

Padilla said the sale of the paintings would be used to fund renovations of some student residence halls.

The O'Keefe piece itself has been valued at $15 million, while Hassam's has been valued at $3.5 million and Church's at about $2 million.

During a Sept. 27 hearing, the attorney for Brauer and Brockington argued both had standing based on common law. Furthermore, he said if the sale went through, it could damage the museum's credibility and make it harder for it to work with other art institutions.

Lawyers for the university and the attorney general argued the two plaintiffs had no direct connection to the charitable trust that donated the artwork, and by including Rokita as a defendant, it stalled his office's ability to make a decision on the sale.

Given the decision to dismiss the suit, Thode also ruled the issue of a $5.77 million bond the university was requesting from the retired professors was no longer relevant.

Patrick McEuen, who represents Brauer and Brockington, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the judge's decision.

"We always knew the standing argument was a close call," McEuen said.

However, according to McEuen, while Thode ruled they couldn't sue the university, the judge left open the ability to sue Rokita. McEuen told The Times they would need to decide if they would take legal action against the attorney general, or if they would just closely monitor if Rokita's office would allow the sale to happen.

On Friday, VU spokesperson Michael Fenton said the university was pleased with the court's decision, and would continue its due diligence before making a final decision regarding the artwork.

The university currently has the artwork at an off-site location, according to Fenton. The paintings were removed from the museum and relocated ahead of the court hearing last month.
© Copyright 2024,, Munster, IN