Berkshire Museum to Sell $50 Million in Art to Fund "Reinvention Plan"

Rendering for a new exhibit space at Berkshire Museum.
Rendering for a new exhibit space at Berkshire Museum.
(Image: Experience Design; Berkshire Museum)

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, the Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts announced a $60 million "reinvention plan" that includes deaccessiong two artworks by Norman Rockwell, among 40 pieces from its 40,000-object permanent collection slated to be sold at auction. The plan is for a renovation that will host "an exciting new interdisciplinary Museum, where connections among science, history, and the arts are explored to inspire curiosity and wonder in audiences of all ages," according to a museum release.

Two years of planning and public feeback directed the move, say museum officials. Thematic exhibit spaces will include: Our Human Fabric, We Make and Create, We Shape History, We Perceive and Process, and Our Living World, featuring an aquarium. 

The museum statement, in part:

"Realization of this ambitious plan is expected to cost $20 million; in addition the Museum will create a new endowment of at least $40 million in order to provide financial stability for the future. These initiatives will be largely funded through the sale of artworks in the Museum’s collection, which have been deemed no longer essential to the Museum’s new interdisciplinary programs, and include two Norman Rockwell paintings. 

To support the capitalization strategy, the Board of Trustees has opted to deaccession 40 works of art from the Museum’s extensive collection numbering approximately 40,000 objects. The Museum is working with Sotheby’s to offer these works for sale. The Museum anticipates the proceeds to be in the region of $50 million. Included are two paintings by Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton’s Barbershop and Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop, as well as other works in the fine art categories of Impressionist and Modern Art, Contemporary Art, 19th-Century European Paintings, American Art, Old Master Paintings, and Chinese Works of Art. The works that have been selected for deaccession have been deemed to be not essential to the Museum’s refreshed mission and do not directly contribute to its new interdisciplinary interpretive plan with its heightened emphasis on science and history. The complete list of works to be deaccessioned will be released by Sotheby’s in due course." 

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