It all started on July 12, 2017
when the Berkshire Museum announced…
It would be selling 40 works of art from their collection to fund their endowment, capital improvements, and to pay down existing debt.
Community members, museum professionals, and national professional organizations asked that this sale be paused and alternate approaches be considered. The museum declined to do so. The first round of artworks were slated to go to auction on November 13th, 2017.
July 24, 2017
and Board President, Elizabeth McGraw
November 10, 2017
Massachusetts Appellate Court
After reviewing the parties’ submissions, the request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendant, Trustees of the Berkshire Museum from selling, auctioning, or otherwise disposing of any of the artworks that have been listed for auction commencing on November 13, 2017, is allowed. The balance of the risk of irreparable harm to the petitioner and the respondent in light of each party’s chance of success on the merits weighs in favor of the petitioner. Packaging Industries Group, Inc. v. Cheney, 380 Mass. 609, 615-617 (1980). The injunction shall expire on December 11, 2017. Prior to the expiration of the injunction, the Attorney General’s Office may move to extend the injunction with a date certain by which the investigation will be completed.Trainor, J.). Notice/attest/Agostini, J.
How We Felt About The Situation
The “compromise” agreement between Attorney General Maura Healey and the Berkshire Museum is flawed. It flouts all standards of museum best practices and fails to honor the Berkshire Museum’s duty to the community’s cultural past or its future generations to enjoy. By leaving intact the current Museum leadership, despite clear evidence of faulty management and bad stewardship, the accord does nothing to protect the collection from future sales. This deaccession of the Museum’s finest art treasures strikes at the heart of the principles of public trust, and sets a precedent that will undermine cultural and historical institutions in the Commonwealth and across the country.
The Museum’s “New Vision” violates the public trust, flouts long-held museum ethics, and sets a damaging precedent that will be felt in museums and cultural institutions across the country. It dishonors the founder Zenas Crans 3d and stewards of the museum’s past and deprives future generations of their cultural inheritance. Instead we support an “alternative vision” for the museum where, instead of sending these great works into private hands where they will most likely never be seen in public again, they are used as a springboard to establish the Berkshire Museum as one of Massachusetts’ great regional museums of art, history, and culture. As such it will provide access to great art within walking distance to the children of Pittsfield, attract tourism, and energize the city’s economy.
We love the museum and are confident that, given that the outcry has reached national proportions, if the directors were to rethink their plans, they could transform all this attention into enormously increased financial support, as happened when the Detroit Institute of the Arts faced similar circumstances.
“One of the most fundamental and long-standing principles of the museum field is that a collection is held in the public trust and must not be treated as a disposable financial asset.“
American Alliance of Museums
and the Assn. of Art Museum Directors
ARTBERKSHIRES was founded as a curatorial project to support contemporary art programming in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. In 2017 the website became the official website and archive for Save the Art – Save the Museum. We transitioned to a new domain (savetheart.net) in May of 2019. Saving the old content and building new content.
SAVE THE ART / SAVE THE MUSEUM (STA / STM) is a grassroots citizens organization of individuals who share a common concern about the Berkshire Museum’s plan to de-accession its most precious works of art and fund a “New Vision”.
The gofundme campaign that was started on October 8, 2017