November 27, 2018; WBUR-FM, “The ARTery”
As regular NPQ readers know the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts has long been in the news for its plan to sell a portion of its art collection to fund its self-reinvention as an “exciting new interdisciplinary museum” with a healthy endowment. The museum was sued by a number of stakeholders and dunned by the Association of Art Museum directors to prevent the sales but was eventually given permission by the Massachusetts state attorney general to deaccession up to 40 works of art. Its goal was to raise $55 million, $20 million of which was slated to go into updating the facility.
On Monday, however, the board opted to stop short of the full goal, selling only 22 pieces (for a total of $53.25 million) in two rounds of sales through the auction house Christie’s and private deals. Some of the most contested of the works sold were Norman Rockwell’s Blacksmith Boy, which brought $7 million, and Shuffleton’s Barbershop, which was bought for an undisclosed sum (estimated to be around $30 million) by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, founded by movie director George Lucas and due to open in 2022.
“We are moving forward having secured the future of this museum for generations to come,” said board president Elizabeth McGraw in a statement. “Our work ahead is focused on making this museum ever more interesting, inspiring and engaging to the broad community in the region it serves and consistent with our unchanged mission,” she said.—Ruth McCambridge