Berkshire Museum Withdraws Some Artworks from Nov. 13 Auction

George Henry Durrie, Hunter in the Winter Wood, 1860.
George Henry Durrie, Hunter in the Winter Wood, 1860.
(Berkshire Museum)
  • Frederic Church, Valley of the Santa Ysabel, 1875.

    Frederic Church, Valley of the Santa Ysabel, 1875.

    Berkshire Museum

  • Albert Bierstadt, Giant Redwood Trees of California, circa 1874.

    Albert Bierstadt, Giant Redwood Trees of California, circa 1874.

    Berkshire Museum

Half the artworks consigned by the Berkshire Museum in a Nov. 13 Sotheby's sale have been withdrawn, reports Berkshire Eagle. Seven works remain in the sale, including two Norman Rockwell paintings that the artist's family has filed a lawsuit to oppose the museum's deaccessioning of the works.

Removed from the Nov. 13 auction: Albert Bierstadt, "Giant Redwood Trees of California"; Ralph Albert Blakelock, "Rocky Mountains"; Frederick Edwin Church, "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada"; George Inness, "Mountain Landscape — The Painter at Work"; Thomas Moran, "The Last Arrow"; Charles Wilson Peale, "Portrait of General David Forman"; and Rembrandt Peale, "George Washington."

Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, Mass., announced in July 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. Sales at Sotheby's are set to start in November and extend to March 2018. The artworks removed from the Nov. 13 sale could appear at a later date.

Opposition to the deaccessions has grown. From the Albany Times Union: A grassroots organization Save the Art — Save the Museum is organizing a fundraising social from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Wandering Star Craft Brewery in Pittsfield and, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, a rally against the sale on the sidewalk outside the Berkshire Museum on South Street in Pittsfield. Save the Art has so far raised $15,000 to fund its campaign.

Professional organizations have also weighed in on the controversy. "Two of the works the Museum is currently planning to sell are important paintings by Norman Rockwell, given by the artist to the people of Pittsfield," the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors wrote in a statement. "These works were entrusted by Rockwell to the Museum for safe-keeping and to share with the public. The other works proposed for sale are by many noted artists from America and around the world. If these works are indeed sold, it would be an irredeemable loss for the present and for generations to come."

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