Raising its bid to halt the Berkshire Museum’s plan to sell-off 40 of its most important artworks—including two irreplaceable Norman Rockwell paintings donated to the Museum for the people of Berkshire County by the artist himself—Save the Art – Save the Museum, a community-based grassroots movement, announced today that it has launched a GoFundMe campaign to underwrite legal action on behalf of Pittsfield’s and the Berkshires’ cultural heritage.
The Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, are one of those tourist destinations where you feel the need to set your watch back fifty years or so. The region is conservative, with a small “c,” sprinkled with small farms, rolling hills, clapboard houses. It is, quite literally, Norman Rockwell country—for the last quarter century of his life, Rockwell lived in Berkshire County.
In recent weeks, however, the oldest museum in Pittsfield, the Berkshires’ largest town, has divided the local community, prompted an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general, and placed this bucolic county at the center of a firestorm.
I just spent a lovely weekend in the Berkshires, which included (of course) a stop at the Berkshire Museum. My trip coincided with the publication of an open letter from the museum’s president, Buzz McGraw, where she says that while she understands the “shock, sadness and anger” which greeted her decision to sell of the museum’s masterpieces, “the vitriol that some have expressed has been disheartening”.
The letter is a positive development, for two reasons. Firstly, McGraw says that she and the museum’s director, Van Shields, are now willing and able to talk about what they decided to do: I have, of course, put in my own request. And secondly, near the bottom of a related FAQ, the museum links to some updated financials, which help to answer some of the open questions.
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.
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.