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.
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.
One of the country’s professional museum organizations announced on Friday that its board of trustees had voted to impose sanctions on the Berkshire Museum, which recently sold artworks to support an expansion initiative.
“Selling art to support any need other than to build a museum’s collection fundamentally undermines the critically important relationships between museums, donors and the public. When museums violate the trust of their donors and the public, they diminish the opportunity and responsibility to make great works of art available to the public.”
For the Media / Press Releases & Statements New York, NY May 25, 2018
The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) announced today that its Board of Trustees has voted to impose sanctions on the Berkshire Museum and the La Salle University Art Museum. This follows the decision made by each institution to use the proceeds from recent art sales to support operating budgets or expansion initiatives, a decision that violates one of the core principles of art museums. These actions are in opposition to AAMD’s policy that such funds must be used only to support acquisitions of art.
AAMD has a long-standing policy that restricts the use of funds obtained through deaccessioning to the acquisition of works of art. Selling art to support any need other than to build a museum’s collection fundamentally undermines the critically important relationships between museums, donors and the public. When museums violate the trust of their donors and the public, they diminish the opportunity and responsibility to make great works of art available to the public. This hurts the individual institution and affects the museum field as a whole.
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.