Press Release – Save the Art
May 21, 2018
PITTSFIELD, Mass. (May 21, 2018) – The Berkshire-based citizens’ group Save the Art – Save the Museum will stage a protest outside Sotheby’s auction house at 1334 York Avenue in New York City, Wednesday, May 23, from 9 to 10 a.m. The group opposes the Berkshire Museum’s unethical deaccession of 40 artworks donated to the community and entrusted to the museum, now on the block at Sotheby’s. Save the Art will be calling attention to the impact this precedent will have on collections of art and artifacts in the public trust held by museums, libraries, and historical societies beyond Massachusetts.
This protest follows a successful earlier demonstration that took place at Sotheby’s on Monday, May 14, before the first auction in a series through which the museum hopes to raise $55 million to fund a $40 million endowment and a change to a science-oriented mission. At least 20 supporters from the Berkshires and the NY metropolitan area gathered in front of the auction house with bold red posters bearing slogans such as, “The public trust is not for sale,” in an effort to inform the public about the wide issues surrounding the sale of these artworks.
“Save the Art has chosen to protest at this sale because the American paintings are considered core to the Berkshire Museum collection and mark the conclusion of the spring auction season,” said Save the Art – Save the Museum spokesperson Hope Davis. “Our presence outside the auction house is intended to emphasize that current law does not adequately protect these important collections held in the public trust.”
The current demonstration will occur just prior to Sotheby’s American Art Sale at 10 a.m., in which the last four of the initial 13 works of art removed from the Berkshire Museum’s collection will hit the block. These 13 works form the first of three tranches that include 39 of the 40 deaccessioned. One painting, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, by Norman Rockwell was sold in advance of the auctions for an undisclosed sum to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, under construction in Los Angeles. On May 14, works by Henry Moore and Francis Picabia were sold at auction and on May 16 a sculpture by Alexander Calder was sold. The Tuesday, May 22 auction will offer five works in the European and Old Master paintings categories, including paintings by Bouguereau (2), Pasini, and Isenbrandt (2). In Wednesday’s auction, Blacksmith’s Boy, Heel and Toe, another important Rockwell, will be offered along with a major landscape by Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, and a still life by John LaFarge.