Lawyers for Save the Corcoran Coalition File Formal Complaint, Seek to Intervene in Proceedings to Break the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Historic Deed. Organization Requests for Board to Provide Full Financial Accounting.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.– The legal team representing the Save the Corcoran Coalition, a D.C. non-profit corporation, has filed a complaint and petition in D.C. Superior Court to intervene in the Corcoran Gallery of Art Board of Trustees’ cy près proceedings. The complaint, filed today by Andrew Tulumello of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP, charges the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art with financial mismanagement, corporate waste, and negligence in their duties. The suit is filed in response to the Trustees’ petition to the court for cy près to break the historic deed which established the Corcoran in 1869. Plaintiffs are students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and members of the Corcoran who believe that the Corcoran can be rebuilt, invigorated, and restored to new life.

“There are so many hard questions that need to be answered. We need to start there. If the Trustees want to dissolve a national, historic gem, we need to understand every wrong turn. We will never be able to get back our third oldest museum in the nation, and years of mismanagement is not a substantial explanation,” said Caroline Lacey, a Masters degree student currently enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, and a plaintiff on the suit. “We as the students have made very serious time and monetary commitments to the Corcoran, and we deserve full accountability.”

Representatives for Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, LLP, added that the Trustees have not adequately explained why the Corcoran must be dissolved and that the request for cy près represents a long overdue opportunity for the Trustees to fully account for the failed stewardship over Washington, D.C.’s oldest private art museum.

“The Trustees have proposed the radical step of destroying the very institution they are charged with protecting. This is not necessary, and it is wrong,” said Andrew Tulumello, lawyer for Save the Corcoran and Managing Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “The public interest demands a more thoughtful approach.”

The suit states that the current deal to dissolve the Corcoran represents an expropriation of founder William Wilson Corcoran’s legacy, a dismantling of its key assets and features, and an abdication of the Trustees’ role as stewards of the Trust. “The Corcoran name, and the District of Columbia, deserve better,” said Jayme McLellan, a member of Save the Corcoran and adjunct faculty at the Corcoran. “At a minimum, we request that the Court not grant cy près relief until the Board provides a full financial accounting; and the complaint requests that the Court not reward the Trustees with such relief if their own unlawful actions have precipitated the Corcoran’s demise.”

Plaintiffs include students, faculty, staff, and donors at every level of the Corcoran. Together, they intend to intervene in the current cy près proceedings to ensure that they are transparent and reach an outcome that not only is in the best interests of the beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries of the Trust, but also is consistent with its original terms and purposes. Plaintiffs ask the Court to:

•    remove members of the current Board of Trustees,
•    ensure that the entire Corcoran collection remain together,
•    require that the Board submit to a full financial accounting, and
•    deny cy près relief if the Board’s own maladministration has caused the Corcoran trust to become impracticable.

The recently announced deal with George Washington University (GWU) and the National Gallery of Art is the latest step in the Trustees’ mismanagement of an historic institution. Under the terms of that deal, the famed Corcoran collection will be dismantled, and the College will be absorbed by GWU completely. Proceeds of the recent sales of artworks from the Corcoran collection, as well as prior deaccession income, will be handed over to underwrite GWU’s operations. The current deal will destroy the Corcoran forever.

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