New York City
Permanent Collection, by Thomas Gibbons, tells the dramatic story of The Morris Foundation, a world-renowned collection of Impressionist paintings and early African sculptures. After the recent death of its eccentric founder, The Morris Foundation was willed into the care of a prominent African-American University, who in turn, named Sterling North, a successful up-and-coming black businessman, as the museum’s new curator. Investigating the institution’s art collection, Sterling soon discovers a large selection of important African sculptures kept in the building’s basement storage. Once he begins discussions of displaying the rediscovered treasures, Sterling comes head-to-head with Paul Barrow, one of the foundation’s long-term staff members. Paul insists on honoring the mandate in the founder’s will prohibiting any changes to the museum’s permanent collection. News of the in-fighting soon reaches a local reporter, who immediately turns the staff’s philosophical differences into the day’s hot news story. What begins as a private discussion between colleagues about the ownership of art and the right to determine its value, soon escalates to charges of racism from both sides, sparking a public debate so impassioned and embittered, it may destroy the museum and the careers of everyone who works there.