The board of trustees of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has announced that two works will be auctioned at Sotheby’s American art auction set to take place in New York on November 16. The pieces—Hunter in the Winter Wood by George Henry Durrie and The Last Arrow by Thomas Moran—are part of the second group of works that will be sold as part of the institution’s controversial deaccessioning plan, which was approved by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 5, 2018.
So it has begun. The first 13 of the 40 works marked for deaccession by the Berkshire Museum have been sold. George Lucas has bought Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950) for his new museum and a baker’s dozen more were sent to the block earlier this month at Sotheby’s spring sales. These were the first works sold at auction following the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, museum’s settlement with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. In February, the sale designed to pad the museum’s endowment and radically reshape its mission, capping the spoils at a maximum of $55 million. The agreement, which to critics is a bit of a farce itself, has turned the sale into a three-act melodrama. The art is to be disposed of in three separate groups or “tranches,” until the total dollar amount is achieved. Tranche is a banking term derived from the Old French word for “slice”; the settlement, Healey’s office insists, was the best half-a-loaf compromise existing law allowed to mitigate the sell-off. Watching the auctions over the past two weeks, it felt more like death by a thousand cuts.
Benjamin Cassidy, The Berkshire Eagle May 14, 2018
NEW YORK — The first two publicly auctioned Berkshire Museum artworks since the announcement of the institution’s “New Vision” project last July have been sold for a combined $1.16 million.
Henry Moore’s “Three Seated Women” and Francis Picabia’s “Force Comique” fetched $240,000 and $920,000 hammer prices, respectively, at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on Monday night. The winning bidders, both by phone, were not immediately known.
PITTSFIELD — Trustees of the Berkshire Museum say they hope to retain two-thirds of the works they can legally sell, acknowledging the “strong feelings” of those who oppose their financial rescue plan.
The museum Tuesday identified 13 works that will be offered at four May auctions at Sotheby’s in New York City. The move came five days after the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County granted the museum’s petition to lift any restrictions and allow it to seek up to $55 million in proceeds under terms worked out with the state Attorney General’s Office.
PITTSFIELD – The Berkshire Museum can sell works of art and raise up to $55 million to keep its doors open and to pursue a new approach to the use of its collection, a justice with the state’s top court ruled Thursday morning.
Justice David A. Lowy of the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County approved the petition submitted in February by the museum and backed by Attorney General Maura Healey.
The sales can now proceed without any of the additional independent oversight sought by one group of sale opponents.
“Based on the Attorney General’s investigation into the sale and her assent to the requested relief, the Museum has satisfied its burden of establishing that it has become impossible or impracticable to administer the Museum strictly in accordance with its charitable purpose,” Lowy wrote, “thus entitling the Museum to relief.”