Activists Continue to Protest Berkshire Museum Art Sales

The billboard, which can be found along South Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that an activist group paid for to rally support for the fight to save 9 Berkshire Museum artworks from being sold. ©2018 Photo: Gillian Jones for the Berkshire Eagle. 

Artforum, July 3, 2018

Critics of the Berkshire Museum’s controversial deaccessioning plan have not given up on the fight to save the institution’s artworks. Located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the museum first announced that it was going to auction off works to bolster its endowment and fund a renovation project in the summer of last year. Since then, the museum industry has been up in arms over the plan—it is considered unethical for an art institution to use the proceeds from the sale of artworks for anything other than acquisitions.

Van Shields, proponent of controversial art sales, bows out at Berkshire Museum

Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 28, 2018

PITTSFIELD — After taking the helm at the Berkshire Museum in 2011, Van Shields surprised his new colleagues by talking about “monetizing” the Pittsfield institution’s collection.

It took six years, but talk brought results: The museum holds $47 million in proceeds from recent art sales, with another $8 million expected. It seems a “mission accomplished” moment for Shields — and on that note he’ll bow out.

Berkshire Museum plans to sell 9 more works, bringing total to 22

Albert Bierstadt’s Giant Redwood Trees of California – 1874. A gift to museum from founder Zenas Crane III.

Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 25, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Nine more Berkshire Museum works will be sold in coming months, the institution said Monday, in a drive to reach the full $55 million in proceeds allowed by an April court ruling. 

Seven of the works will be sold in private transactions rather than auctions in an attempt to place them with new owners who will preserve public access. 

Berkshire Museum takes steps to improve ‘best practices,’ art sales net $47 million

Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 20, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Four months after their landmark accord, key points of dispute between the Berkshire Museum and the Attorney General’s Office are back in play.

This time, the “people’s lawyer” is securing pledges of managerial reform from the museum, as the office fulfills its statutory role as overseer of nonprofits and public charities.

Berkshire Museum Board Interview on SoundCloud

Trustees of the Berkshire Museum head into their first board meeting since selling artworks at a “turning point,” having raised more than $42 million to ensure their 115-year-old institution’s survival. But big decisions lie ahead.

Key decisions lie ahead, Berkshire Museum trustees say

Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 6, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Trustees of the Berkshire Museum head into their first board meeting since selling artworks at a “turning point,” having raised more than $42 million to ensure their 115-year-old institution’s survival. 

Berkshire Museum Case: Now “Profoundly Accessible”— Yikes!

Martin Gammon, Pergamon Art Group
June 1, 2018

Another day, another statement… Now in the form of an extended release from the board of trustees to the Berkshire Museum community…

In truth, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the PR team at the Berkshire Museum, or whoever has been compelled to compose the blather they have been crafting in their occasional press releases. Rather than honestly and straightforwardly addressing the raft of specific allegations of ethical malfeasance by the board and their enablers, they have resorted to tortuous paeans about community building and securing the future, apparently hoping this might divert attention from further exposing their callous disregard of donor intent and the museum’s founding mission. And yet, even these saccharine bromides fail to conceal the dissonant chords rumbling beneath the rhetorical sheen.

Berkshire Museum’s Murky “Transparency”: Parsing the Half-Truths in Its “Open Letter”

If this is transparency, we can only wonder what opacity looks like.

Lee Rosenbaum’s Cultural Commentary Blog
May 31, 2018

The Berkshire Museum today posted an open letter to its community that is intended to show its “commitment to transparency, cooperation, outreach,” according to an email from its spokesperson that hit my inbox late this afternoon.

But the “open letter” was less than transparent in describing what happened to the priciest of the museum’s deaccessions:

Berkshire Museum… To Our Community:

Electronic news from the Berkshire Museum
June 2018

Our most important goal has always been to secure the future of the Berkshire Museum. We want to protect what we consider the museum’s most important asset: our open doors. Reaching that goal has proven more difficult than we could have ever imagined, but it is within reach, allowing the museum to remain the ‘window on the world’ founder Zenas Crane sought to provide this community.

Shuffleton’s Barbershop by Norman Rockwell is on its way back to the Berkshires, to the Norman Rockwell Museum, where it will be on public display. We pulled the painting from auction and agreed to accept a significantly lower price through a private sale that keeps this important work in the public eye. Twelve other works were sold, including two acquired by nonprofits where they will be on public display.


A grassroots citizens group established in 2017 with the intent of stopping the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s treasured art collection in order to find an alternate solution to its continued financial shortfall.


The mission of Save the Art is to advocate for and protect the Public Trust — the art and objects belonging to all of us that document humankind’s creative and social history through time.


We thank the Berkshire Eagle for their extensive investigative coverage, the journalists, op-ed writers and our community for their hundreds of letters of concern and applaud Larry Parnass / Investigations Editor for his 2018 Outstanding Journalism award. See The Berkshire Eagle page located in Press menu.