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Berkshire Museum, AGO Agreement Would Allow Art Sale to Proceed

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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An American museum is interested in purchasing 'Shuffleton's Barbershop' but would loan it to the Norman Rockwell Museum first for up to two years. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A U.S. based museum is waiting in the wings to purchase Norman Rockwell's famed "Shuffleton's Barbershop" if an agreement between the Berkshire Museum and the Attorney General's Office is approved by the Supreme Judicial Court.
Under the agreement, the painting, donated to the museum by Rockwell in 1958, would first spend 18 to 24 months on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge and then possibly at museums in Massachusetts before being put on prominent display at the unnamed museum. 
The joint filing made on Friday would also allow the museum to sell up to 40 works -- but only up until it captures the $55 million it says it needs to improve the century-old institution and provide for an endowment. 
"For the people of Berkshire County who rely on our museum to engage with the arts, history, and science, this agreement is the promise of a long future for our small but extraordinary museum and its collection," Elizabeth McGraw, president of the board of trustees of the Berkshire Museum, said in a statement. "We hope it will also mark the beginning of a time when our community can come together again."
The Berkshire Museum announced a "reinvention plan" back in July aimed to turn around annual deficits that it says have topped $1 million annually. The museum opted to auction off the pieces of art to generate $50 million. Coupled with fundraising of $10 million, the plan is to create an endowment of $40 million to sustain the museum into the future and $20 million in renovations.
The announcement caused a firestorm of controversy with a group including Rockwell's three sons filing suit against the museum in Superior Court. There have numerous protests outside the museum and editorials against the deaccessioning by museum directors and art lovers around the nation. 
Attorney General Maura Healey stepped into the fray in the fall seeking an injunction to delay the auction set in November so her office could began an independent review of the sale under her purview of laws governing charitable assets. 
Four days ago, in a joint status report, Healey's office said it had concluded its investigation after reviewing more than 1,500 documents and interviewing museum employees and board members. It determined that the museum had demonstrated a need modify restrictions that had prevented it from selling the works and using the proceeds to sustain itself. 
"The AGO believes that the 40 works at issue are subject to restrictions, which the Museum does not believe exist. The AGO and the Museum have agreed to resolve these differences and will file a petition for judicial relief" with the Single Justice of the Supreme Court, the report stated. 
No sale can go forward until the Supreme Judicial Court acts on the petition and Berkshire Superior Court enters final judgement on the current complaint. Healey said she will not "seek any further injunctive relief or stay the Superior Court proceedings at this time."
"This agreement helps secure the future of the Berkshire Museum for years to come, while preserving 'Shuffleton's Barbershop' for public view, in keeping with the wishes of Norman Rockwell," Healey said. "We are pleased that this agreement will allow the Berkshire Museum to thrive, ensures that no more art than necessary will be sold, and honors the legacy of Norman Rockwell and his masterpiece, 'Shuffleton's Barbershop.'"
The sales would go through Sotheby's as originally intended but in three lots, or tranches, structured so that not all of the works might be sold. For instance, if the first two lots brought in enough, the third would not be sold. The museum will be unrestricted in use of the first $50 million in net proceeds, including the sale of "Shuffleton's," but revenues over that will be put into a separate account for acquisitions and to support the collection, including its "New Vision" collections. 
The agreement also allows the museum to sell works at a lower price to private collectors if it means those pieces will be publically available. 
The museum has declined to identify the museum interested in "Shuffleton's," citing confidentiality until the court proceedings are concluded and the sale can be announced. However, the proposed purchaser has indicated it would be open to loaning the painting to other museums around the country in the future so that the work can be seen by many, said officials.
"It is in the best interests of both sides, and particularly the people of Berkshire County, that these issues be resolved to allow the Berkshire Museum to continue to be an invaluable resource in the culture, education, and economy of the region long into the future. Our hope is that this represents the end of a legal dispute and a new beginning that brings together those divided by that dispute," said William Lee of WilmerHale, lead counsel for the Berkshire Museum.

Summary of Museum Settlement Agreement by on Scribd

Tags: attorney general,   auction,   Berkshire Museum,   lawsuit,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 10-16


Welcome to Cultural Pittsfield's weekly guide featuring in-person and virtual classes and events, information, and more. If you are a Pittsfield business and would like your event listed, please email us at Thank you and be well!
TONIGHT - Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m.: Berkshire OLLI at BCC presents An Online Conversation with Jim Acosta. The Chief White House Correspondent for CNN will discuss "The Enemy of the People: One Year, One Impeachment, and One Pandemic Later," co-sponsored by Berkshire Gas and The Berkshire Eagle.

NEW DATE! Pittsfield's first everDrive.Walk.Bike City Art Show will take place on Friday, July 10 from 4-8 p.m. Artists will be displaying their paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fashions, sidewalk art, videos, and more on their porches, trees, lawns, and driveways, in their garages, or projected onto their homesView the list of participants and locations here!
Berkshire Theatre Group presents a virtual benefit performance live from Florence, Italy. Hershey Felder stars in Beethoven: A Play with Music on Sunday, July 12 at 8 p.m. 
Dramatizing Gerhard von Breuning's memoir, "Aus dem Schwarzspanierhaus," Felder brings Ludwig van Beethoven to life through the eyes of the Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the Maestro's side. Featuring some of the composer's greatest works, Felder's Beethoven is an intense, illuminating journey. 
Berkshire Artist Profiles NEW Jacob's Pillow Virtual Festival Learn from Home w/Berkshire Theatre Group | Classes w/Berkshire Music School Classes w/Berkshire Fitness & Wellness Center | Classes w/IS183 Art School | Painting Tutorials w/Berkshire Paint & Sip | Virtual Barrington Stage Classes w/Radiance Yoga | Classes w/Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness Classes w/Antil Fitness | Email for Online Drumming Classes | ONGOING Online Classes w/Berkshire OLLI | FRI 1Berkshire Town Hall: Reopening the Economy, Phase 3 | FRI DLE Virtual Culture Chat | MON WordXWord: Dancing in the Street Virtual Poetry Slam | WED I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone Live Stream | WED 1Berkshire Virtual Team Trivia | THU Live Storytelling w/BCC Alums

Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness is now offering its Radiant Child Yoga class at Brattle Farm. Kids of all ages are invited to join instructor Julie Pellerin-Herrera on Fridays, July 10, July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 from 10:15-11 a.m. Pre-registration is required as class space is limited. $15/class.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents Sunset Cinema, outdoor film screenings at Taconic High School. Drive up and enjoy family-friendly movies in the comfort and safety of your vehicle ($25/car). A food truck will be on site offering concessions! Friday, July 10: Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical. Saturday, July 11: The Wiz Live! Thursday, July 16: Jurassic Park.Friday, July 17: The Iron GiantSaturday, July 18: Coco.

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