Berkshire Museum moving forward with art auction

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) – In less than a week, the Berkshire County community will lose invaluable art, including two Norman Rockwell paintings.

A judge found the Berkshire Museum is within its right to auction off the items to private collectors.

Many are hoping this is an isolated incident because this may be the largest deaccession in the museum world where the proceeds will go towards renovations and operating costs.

After 51 years in the art business, Charles Flint says he has never seen a deaccession as depleting as the one planned by the Berkshire Museum.

“Nor did I ever expect to see in my lifetime,” Flint said.

Timeless works by iconic artists like Norman Rockwell will be lost to the public next week.

A Berkshire County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Berkshire Museum’s planned sale of 40 pieces of artwork.

The community is devastated.

“You don’t sell off the best of a museum and completely rip apart one of the nicest buildings in Pittsfield,” Flint said.

Judge John Agostini ruled the plaintiffs have no legal standing and scolded the Attorney General’s Office for its incomplete investigation.

He wrote, “the AGO has given this court utterly no reason to expect that convincing evidence will ever be forthcoming.”

Board of Trustees President Elizabeth McGraw says it took two years to make the difficult decision to deaccess.

“The responsibility of keeping this museum open and sustainable and relevant weighed so heavily on myself and the board. That’s what kept me up at night.”

The items are expected to bring in $46 to $68 million. The money will fund the museum’s new vision.

One, McGraw says has a promising future.

“It’s using what we have but making it more tangible. [The vision] will really explore what it means to be human and how art, natural history and science intercept with each other.”

While Flint respects the court’s decision, he worries about consequences the museum will race from other institutions and donors.

“I think once they burn that bridge, it’s not going to be rebuilt again,” Flint said.

The museum says they will not have a timeline of the renovations until after the auction.

The two Norman Rockwell paintings are among the first items to go up for sale on Monday, November 13.

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