The Lucas Museum will loan the painting to the Norman Rockwell Museum for up to two years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The under-construction $1 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles has identified itself as the buyer of "Shuffleton's Barbershop."
Don Bacigalupi, director of the nonprofit museum, founded by George Lucas, told the The New York Times on Tuesday that the Norman Rockwell painting will be "one of the anchor works of our museum."
"As a museum dedicated to celebrating visual storytelling, we are honored to become the public steward of this major work," Bacigalupi said in a press statement. "Norman Rockwell is one of our nation's most important storytellers, and this cultural treasure will continue to be seen and enjoyed by the public in an American museum, where it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come."
The work is one of 40 pieces of art the Berkshire Museum is being allowed to sell under conditions hammered out with the attorney general's office. A Supreme Judicial Court ruling Thursday paved the way for the sales to begin after months of controversy and court battles.
The museum is seeking to sell the artwork at auction through Sotheby's and raise some $55 million to reinvest into the 100-year-old museum. The museum had been financially struggling and looks to renovate and create an endowment for long-term sustainability.
"Shuffleton's," donated by Rockwell himself to the museum in 1958, was expected to fetch $20 million to $30 million at auction. Lucas stepped in to offer an option that would keep the painting publicly accessible.
"One of the speculations and fears with a situation like this is that the painting could go into private hands and never be seen again," Bacigalupi told The Times. "Our commitment is really making this painting available to the public in perpetuity."
The agreement with the attorney general's office included the private sale of "Shuffleton's" to a then-unnamed U.S. museum. Bacigalupi said the Lucas Museum would abide by the agreement and the painting will be held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for 18 to 24 months, then be lent to an unknown number of other Massachusetts museums before finally being prominently displayed in Los Angeles.
The 300,000 square-foot Lucas Museum broke ground last month and is expected to take four years to complete. The institution will feature both fine and popular art and include cinema and digital mediums.
"Visitors who might be less inclined to visit a traditional fine art museum will be invited to engage with and relate to art forms they recognize and love," the museum's website states. It already has works by such prominent artists like Degas and Renoir, along with works by Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish.
The entire project is being underwritten by Lucas, who vaulted to pop culture fame with the iconic "Star Wars" and its expanding universe. The writer and director will settle at least a $400 million endowment on the institution and it will house most of his large collection of Rockwell works:"Shuffleton's" will join "Saying Grace" and After the Prom" in the collection.
"We are immensely grateful to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art for ensuring that Norman Rockwell's masterpiece 'Shuffleton's Barbershop' will continue to be available to and enjoyed by the public," said Rockwell Museum's Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. "It is especially meaningful for the people of Berkshire County who will have the opportunity to enjoy this masterpiece for a few more years, knowing that it will remain in the public realm. We look forward to continuing to work with our friends at the Lucas Museum to create educational opportunities and appreciation of the narrative art of illustration, including ongoing collection-sharing."
Thirteen other Berkshire Museum works will be auctioned in May by Sotheby's, including another Rockwell piece, "Blacksmith's Boy — Heel and Toe."
Museum officials say they hope to retain the other 26 works approved for sale, which include Albert Bierstadt's "Giant Redwood Trees of California," Alexander Calder's "Dancing Torpedo Shape," and Thomas Moran's "The Last Arrow."
"We now hope we can raise what the museum needs by offering for sale fewer than half of the works originally anticipated," said Elizabeth McGraw, president of the museum's board of trustees in a statement. "That's good for the museum and the community we serve."
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