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Why a Massachusetts museum selling its prized Norman Rockwell painting should worry art museums everywhere

The Berkshire Museum’s plan to sell 40 works of art, including one of Norman Rockwell’s best paintings, to pay bills has generated protests. ©2017 Photo by Gillian Jones / AP

Christopher Knight, LA Times Art Critic
August 23, 2017

Maybe it’s the record-breaking summer temperatures, exacerbated by global warming, but some art museum folks in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts seem to be suffering from heatstroke. Plainly they’ve lost their minds.

In late July, the Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield’s local newspaper, reported that the Berkshire Museum, the town’s long-struggling museum of history, science and art, finished off a two-year self-examination by deciding to sell off 40 of the most notable paintings, sculptures and drawings from a collection not known to be overstuffed with outstanding art.

Berkshire Museum Faces Uproar Over Sale of Artworks from Collection

Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, 1950. Rockwell gifted his painting to the Berkshire Museum and for the benefit of the citizens.

Artforum, July 25, 2017

Two paintings by Norman Rockwell—Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop, 1940, and Shuffleton Barbershop, 1950—are among a group of forty artworks lined up to be sold at auction from the collection of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The proceeds from the sales will be used to fund the Berkshire’s $20 million renovation and $40 million endowment, report Helen Stoilas and Gabriella Angeleti of the Art Newspaper. Some say the venue, which belongs to the American Alliance of Museums, is violating the coalition’s code of ethics, as sales of this kind are typically done to support the purchase of other artworks for an institution’s permanent collection.