On July 12, 2017, the Berkshire Museum announced that 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 have asked that this sale be paused and alternate approaches considered.

The museum has declined to do so.

The first round of artworks are slated to go to auction on November 13th, 2017.

Please help us fund legal action and public information to PAUSE this sale so alternatives can be found.

Any donation, large or small, makes a difference. Even a modest contribution will be evidence of our large groundswell of support.

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Why we are asking the sale to be paused?
If the Berkshire Museum sells its 40 most important works, it will be failing its highest calling as the keeper of Berkshire cultural memory.

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 founders 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 pause and rethink their plans, they could transform this attention into enormously increased financial support, as happened when the Detroit Institute of the Arts faced similar circumstances.

 


Works Slated for Sale by the Berkshire Museum

Please note works that do not have available images are represented by an empty frame or pedestal.

1. ALBERT BIERSTADT
Connecticut River Valley, Claremont, New Hampshire
1868, Oil on canvas
2. ALBERT BIERSTADT
Giant Redwood Trees of California
Circa 1874, Oil on canvas
3. RALPH ALBERT BLAKELOCK
Rocky Mountains
Oil on canvas
4. WILLIAM-ADOLPHE BOUGUEREAU
L’Agneau nouveau-né (The Newborn Lamb)
1873, Oil on canvas
5. WILLIAM-ADOLPHE BOUGUEREAU
La bourrique (The Pony-back Ride)
1884, Oil on canvas
6. ALEXANDER CALDER
Dancing Torpedo Shape
1932, Wood, wire and aluminum
7. ALEXANDER CALDER
Double Arc and Sphere
1932, Painted wood, wire and sheet metal
8. FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH
Valley of the Santa Ysabel
1875, Oil on canvas
9. CHARLES FRANÇOIS DAUBIGNY
Paysans allant aux champs le matin
Oil on canvas
10. THOMAS WILMER DEWING
The White Dress
Oil on canvas
11. RAOUL DUFY
La Fête
Circa 1935, Watercolor on paper
12. GEORGE HENRY DURRIE
Hunter in Winter Wood
1860, Oil on canvas
13. PIETER DE HOOCH
The Music Party
Oil on canvas
14. GEORGE INNESS
Mountain Landscape – The Painter at Work (Leeds in the Catskills, with the Artist Sketching)
Circa 1867-1869, Oil on canvas
15. ADRIAEN ISENBRANT
The Temptation
Oil on panel
16. ADRIAEN ISENBRANT AND CIRCLE OF JOACHIM PATINIR
Flight into Egypt
Oil on panel
17. DANIEL RIDGWAY KNIGHT
Girl with Dog
1866, Oil on canvas
18. JOHN LAFARGE
Magnolia
1863, Oil on panel
19.HENRY MOORE
Three Seated Figures
1942, Pastel, ink and pen on paper
20. THOMAS MORAN
The Last Arrow
1867, Oil on canvas
21. ALBERTO PASINI
Market Day in Constantinople
1877, Oil on canvas
22. CHARLES WILLSON PEALE
Portrait of General David Forman
Circa 1784, Oil on canvas
23. REMBRANDT PEALE
George Washington
Oil on canvas
24. FRANCIS PICABIA
Force Comique
Watercolor on paper
25. SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS
Portrait of Mr. W. Cave
Oil on canvas
26.NORMAN ROCKWELL
Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe
(Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop)
1940, Oil on canvas
27. NORMAN ROCKWELL
Shuffleton’s Barbershop
1950, Oil on canvas
28. AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS
Diana of the Tower
1899, Bronze
29. FRANKLIN SIMMONS
Penelope
1884, Marble
30. GIULIO TADOLINI
Judith
1881, Marble
31. GIROLAMO TROPPA
Apollo Flaying Marsyas
Oil on canvas
32. JAN VICTORS
Benjamin and His Brethren
Oil on canvas
33. EDOUARD VUILLARD
Deux femmes dans un interieur
Watercolor on paper
34. EDWIN LORD WEEKS
Indian Prince, Palace of Agra
Oil on canvas
35. BENJAMIN WEST
Daniel Interpreting to Belshazzar the Handwriting on the Wall
Oil on canvas
36. A FOLDING ‘TALE OF GENJI’ SCREEN
Japan, 16th Century
37. A TEN-PANEL COROMANDEL LACQUER ‘DAOIST IMMORTALS’ SCREEN
Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period, dated by inscription 1689
38. AN ARCHAIC BRONZE RITUAL FOOD VESSEL, GUI
Early Western Zhou Period
39.A LARGE BLUE AND WHITE ‘DRAGON’ VASE
Qing Dynasty, Early 19th Century, Jiaqing-Daoguang Period
40.A LARGE BRONZE FIGURE OF GUANYIN
China or Japan, 19th Century

 

 

THE STORY
The Berkshire Museum was founded by paper magnate Xenas Crane, who invested his wealth in his community. He actively sought out art and artifacts for Berkshire Museum (some of the significant works scheduled to be sold), and encouraged the development of collections that would display, under one roof, the splendors of nature and the sublime creations of human genius—science and art, natural and manmade beauty, together in intellectual and aesthetic collaboration—a “window on the world.”

The current administration, however, in an attempt to shore up its finances, fund a “New Vision” and ensure the Museum’s stability “for the next hundred years,” has sent 40 of its most valuable artworks for auction starting November 13th. They say the works, from which they hope to raise $40-60 million, are “not essential” to the Museum’s new mission with its focus on science and technology, primarily for children. Among the works to be sold works are two paintings by Norman Rockwell donated by the artist for the Museum’s “permanent collection,” significant works by Hudson River School artists, including Albert Bierstadt and Fredric Edwin Church, acquired by Museum founder Xenas Crane in 1910, and sculpture by Alexander Calder, now internationally-recognized but once a local artist whose first commissions were for the Berkshire Museum.

While the Museum conducted focus groups in forming their “New Vision,” because participants were not informed about how it would be funded, the results are not valid. Following the Museum’s revelation to the public, which occurred after the works were consigned to Sotheby’s, several financial analysts, including those at the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), which supported the Museum with over $1M in grants over the past ten years, have established that the Museum has exaggerated its financial need. In addition to the MCC, major museum organizations have made public their strong opposition to the sale, including the Smithsonian Institution, from which the Museum was forced to withdraw its affiliation. Latest in national news coverage, is Felix Salmon’s comprehensive article in The New Yorker (October 4, 2017).

Salmon concludes, “There’s no good reason for the museum’s rush: its endowment can easily last a couple more years, during which time the trustees could, were they so inclined, make every effort to keep the museum’s best paintings in the Berkshires, where they belong.”

Help us make that happen.
Help spread the word!

Select excerpts from recent press coverage & letters to the editor 

“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.

First and foremost: Just how much money has the Berkshire Museum been losing, in recent years? Here’s the answer:..” Felix Salmon, Cause & Effect

“When the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art (MASS MoCA) opened a new facility in June, it became one of the largest exhibition spaces in the country. But on the other side of Berkshire County, another museum is selling off some of its most prominent art pieces in order to stay afloat” read more … PBS Newshour

“As members of Norman Rockwell’s family, we are very concerned that the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is planning to deaccession Shuffleton’s Barbershop and have it auctioned at Sotheby’s. We believe that this painting is one of Norman Rockwell’s finest and should stay at a public institution, so that it can be seen.     

When our father and grandfather gave the painting to the Museum in 1958 he wanted it to be appreciated by his neighbors in the Berkshires. Norman Rockwell didn’t give it to finance the Museum’s renovation plans. He gave it hoping the people of the Berkshires would see it and enjoy it. By auctioning off his gift, the Berkshire Museum risks the painting being lost to a private collector who won’t share the painting with the public.     

That would be a great loss. We hope the Berkshire Museum will reconsider how it treats the gift that Norman Rockwell gave to them and preserves this very special painting for future generations of museum-goers.”
– 
Rockwell Family Letter Berkshire Eagle “

 

“The Rockwell family understands that only a serious financial crisis would force a museum to put so many treasures up for auction. Apparently, a lot of thought has gone into what the Berkshire Museum needs for its future, and it has decided it doesn’t need these two paintings. The paintings are to be sold to pay for a $40 million endowment and a $20 million renovation.

While we wish the Berkshire Museum well, we wonder if there isn’t another way. Perhaps a group of philanthropists could be found to make sure these paintings stay in the Berkshires. We encourage the museum to consider an alternative for raising money to keep the paintings in a public institution. Could a public appeal raise money so that the museum could transfer the paintings to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge? If so, they would not only be loved and cherished by generations of museum-goers, but they would also remain in the Berkshires, where they belong.”
– Rockwell Family Letter Boston Globe

To read press coverage of the sale, please click here.