PITTSFIELD — In a final report to Attorney General Maura Healey, the Berkshire Museum discloses issues flagged as concerns by Healey’s office. The report was required in the successful 2018 petition to the Supreme Judicial Court that ended state opposition and allowed up to $55 million in art sales. The Eagle obtained attorney William F. Lee’s Oct. 18 report through a public records request. Issues include:
THE SALES: Of 40 works removed from the collection, 22 were sold, netting $53.25 million. Eighteen objects were returned from Sotheby’s to Pittsfield but are not yet reaccessioned due to delays and staffing, according to Executive Director Jeff Rodgers.
PROCEEDS: $45 million was invested with Northern Trust Co. based on advice from Portfolio Evaluations Inc.; $5 million is held in an account at Lee Bank for capital projects; and $3.25 million sits in a Lee Bank account to be used only for the good of the collection under terms of the court ruling. Rodgers said the museum plans to draw no more than 3.2 percent from its investment fund in any year.
Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle August 14, 2018
PITTSFIELD — Lawyers for the Berkshire Museum aren’t quite done defending its art sales — even as those transactions near completion.
They’ll come before three Massachusetts Appeals Court justices in early September, working to fend off a lawsuit against the museum and its trustees that dates back to the start of legal action 10 months ago.
Lynn Villency Cohen, The Berkshire Eagle April 8, 2018
STOCKBRIDGE – When Justice Lowy peered down from his high court seat at the hearing to address briefs filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys opposed to deaccessioning the art at the Berkshire Museum, his skepticism over management of the museum could not go unnoticed. “Why is there a $1.2 million (yearly) deficit? What’s been going on here?”, a seemingly dismayed Justice Lowy asked.
After a 10-month legal drama, it has been his job to render final judgment on whether an agreement to sell in excess of $55 million worth of art should move forward, put forth by the Massachusetts attorney general and the Berkshire Museum. He issued that decision in a terse five page judgment with a full blessing of the agreement and sale of the entire cache of publicly held art works. To those who hoped he would modify this very lopsided agreement that had been hashed out by the attorney general in a head-spinning 11th hour turn around from strong legal adversary to united ally, it is a time of great disappointment.
Catherine Ryan, Good Morning Gloucester Blog March 22, 2018
BOSTON – In 2017, the Berkshire Museum was sued multiple times because of the possible sales of 40 works of art at public auctions. The art has long left the building. The winning consignor, Sotheby’s auction house, received all property prior to the 2017 public announcement from museum leadership blowing its “New Vision” horn. The art remains on hold at Sotheby’s.
At high noon on March 20, 2018, in Courtroom 2 of the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, Justice David Lowy presided over the ongoing Berkshire Museum deaccession litigation. Four attorneys, two for each side, were summoned before the Massachusetts Supreme Court to argue positions. Justice Lowy began the hearing by addressing the elephant in the room. He announced that because the Attorney General Office and the Berkshire Museum, former adversaries, petitioned the court together for necessary relief, he thought it was important to hear opposing views. Therefore, he invited amici to present their arguments, too.
Those, like me, who were caught off-guard by the astonishing deal (now awaiting court validation) cut last month by the Berkshire Museum and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey feel justifiably blindsided by the AG’s about-face. With scant explanation, she pivoted from a seemingly adversarial stance towards the museum’s deaccessions of the cream of its collection to acceptance of the shameful sell-offs, notwithstanding the fact that they would run afoul of professional standards and would violate what the AG had deemed to be restrictions prohibiting sales of about half of the 40 deaccessioned works.
Maria Garcia, wbur 90.9, The ARTery March 20, 2018
BOSTON – Residents opposed to the sale of artwork by the Berkshire Museum, in a final attempt, asked the state Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to stop the transaction, or at the very least appoint a museum management expert to oversee the process.
The case is a precedent-setting dispute that could break an essential tenet of art stewardship for museums across the United States.
BOSTON – The jurist able to greenlight Berkshire Museum art sales gave both the institution and its critics reason for hope in a one-hour hearing Tuesday.
Justice David A. Lowy said that sentiment aside, the essential question before him — in the museum’s petition to sell up to 40 works of art — is whether it would be “impracticable” for the 115-year-old Pittsfield museum to continue without an influx of $55 million.
BOSTON – The battle over the Berkshire Museum’s controversial plan to sell artworks from its collection, including two important Norman Rockwell paintings, in order to pursue what its leadership terms a New Vision, has been long and grinding.
But on Tuesday, at the John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston, the fight may have finally entered its final round. At a hearing in the afternoon, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the museum asked Justice David Lowy of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to sign off on a deal they had previously reached, while attorneys for plaintiffs who had filed to block the sell-off made a last-ditch attempt to have the agreement rejected, scaled back, or modified.