Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’

Service of Both Sides of a Coin: To Sell Art or Not–the Berkshire Museum’s

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Photo: dailykos.com

When Detroit was having its financial crisis four years ago, I shared the opinion of an economics professor who felt the Detroit Institute of Arts should sell its work by big name artists to the mega-rich and instead, opt to own the pictures of emerging talent. The new owners could lend their Picassos, Rembrandts, Gauguins and Bruegels to museums as needed and the museum would have such a huge endowment that the interest alone would pay to run the place.

Money is part of the reason the Berkshire Museum wants to sell some 40 paintings. The other is a change of focus. The sale has landed it in a legal tangle.

Photo: artnews.com

An article in ArtfixDaily, “Massachusetts AG Seeks to Extend Berkshire Museum Injunction,” reported that the “Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, Mass., announced in July 2017 that it would sell 40 artworks from its collections to generate about $50 million, to help fund a New Vision plan to refocus the museum on science and history, and build an endowment.”

It continued, “A November auction of the museum’s art at Sotheby’s was stopped pending legal wrangles and opposition from Rockwell’s family and others.

“‘We are hopeful that a brief extension will allow us to fully analyze the information we have received in our investigation in the hope of finding a way forward to secure the future of the Museum, and ensure it is able to thrive in the years to come,’ said Emily Snyder, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.”

Photo: artnews.com

Back in November, Larry Parness, the Berkshire Eagle, quoted museum directors who warned that without the proceeds of a sale, the 115 year old museum, founded by Zenas Crane, “could close within eight years” because of a yearly deficit of some $1million. “After working with a consultant, museum trustees decided to sell works from their collection and apply the proceeds to a capital project and to expand its endowment to roughly $40 million.

“The case has drawn national attention and is considered precedent-setting because it may be the largest such deaccession to date in the museum world in which proceeds would be applied in large part to operational expenses.”

The opposition, some 2,000 members of Save the Art-Save the Museum, on two Facebook pages according to Parness, raised money to pay for legal help to fight the sale and garnered 1,700 online signatures.

The museum has apparently softened its message about change-in-direction and added the word ART in a reaction to the stay by the AG. According to Adam Frenier on nepr.net “‘The museum accepts the attorney general’s request for a brief postponement, but remains eager to see these issues resolved to secure the future of the Berkshire Museum for all it provides its visitors, young and old, in art, history, and science,’ a museum spokeswoman said Monday.”

Do you think the museum directors should have kept separate any discussion of change in direction and first focused on the financial aspects of selling the art to help the museum survive or doesn’t that matter? Should the directors seek other ways of generating income before selling their legacy?

Berkshire Museum Photo: news10.com

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