Appeals Court to Hear Suit Against Berkshire Museum Art Sales

THOMAS WILMER DEWING, The White Dress.  Oil on canvas.
THOMAS WILMER DEWING, The White Dress. Oil on canvas.
(Berkshire Museum)

While some $47 million in art may have already been sold, an appeals case against the Berkshire Museum's offloading of its collections will go forward in Sept., reports the Berkshire Eagle.

Detractors say the museum breached a contract with museum members and betrayed the public trust by deaccessioning seminal artworks from its collections. 

Local museum members (along with three of artist Norman Rockwell's sons) have been behind legal actions against the museum.

"Such a dissipation of cultural property in service of short-term finance, if permitted, would be without precedent in American history," the legal brief states. "While other museums have attempted similar monetization of their cultural property to disastrous result, none have ever done so on the scale proposed here."

A Massachuesetts judge's decision in April to allow the museum in Pittsfield, Mass., to deaccession dozens of key artworks came after a seven month investigation by the state attorney general which ended with a plan for the cash-strapped museum to go forward with the sales despite opposition from museum organizations, locals, art lovers, and artist Norman Rockwell's family.

Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop" has now been sold to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will be in L.A., while 39 other artworks were offered at auction.

The appeal will be heard in a Boston courtroom on Sept. 4.

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