Katie and Steve give listeners an update on the Berkshire Museum deaccessioning controversy. The Massachusetts Attorney General and the Museum have reached an agreement, pending approval by the Supreme Judicial Court, permitting sales of up to $55 million with the famous Norman Rockwell painting Shuffleton’s Barbershop going to an undisclosed museum. The Rockwell sons have dropped out of the litigation, but the other plaintiffs oppose the compromise and are still fighting.
In our first full-length episode, we discuss the Berkshire Museum’s controversial decision to sell off 40 works of iconic art from its permanent collection to raise funds to rebrand itself as a science and natural history museum, and build a large endowment. Only after the regional museum had signed an agreement with Sotheby’s auction house to deaccession these works, did the museum announce its plans to the public. Museum and cultural groups, the fine arts community, and certain local constituents have passionately opposed these plans. Other stakeholders and commentators have strongly supported the museum’s efforts to monetize its collection and rebrand. We will discuss both the ethical and legal issues around deaccessioning and the Berkshire Museum’s actions in particular. We are joined by the financial and art-market journalist, Felix Salmon.