PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Museum has selected nine more works of art to be sold toward its goal of $55 million that museum officials say is required to secure the institution's future.
Thirteen pieces have been sold by auction or private sale. Sotheby's will be working with the museum to find private sales for seven more works and will auction two in September.
The century-old museum's decision to deaccession parts of its 40,000-piece collection was announced almost a year ago to fund a $60 million plan to modernize and update the aging institution and develop an endowment to continue its operations. Without the funds, officials say the venerable museum is facing a financial catastrophe.
The announcement set off a firestorm of controversy that led to protests, lawsuits, condemnation from museum leaders across the nation and sanctions by the Association of Art Museum Directors. Working with the Office of the Attorney General, an agreement was reached and approved by the Supreme Judicial Court to set a goal of $55 million by selling 40 works in sections — once the top limit was reached, no further works would be deaccessioned.
So far, the museum has netted an estimated $13 million at auction, and more than $42 million total (not including Frederic Edwin Church's "Valley of Santa Isabel"), according to officials. The price for Norman Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop," acquired privately by George Lucas' Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, has not been disclosed although the work is estimated to be worth between $20 million and $30 million. The museum states on its website that it had "agreed to accept a significantly lower price through a private sale that keeps this important work in the public eye."
"Shuffleton's Barbershop" is currently on exhibit at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge as part of the sale agreement. "Valley of Santa Isabel" was acquired by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after failing to find a buyer at auction. The price is not being disclosed.
A second Rockwell, "Blacksmith's Boy, Heel and Toe," brought in the most at auction with a sale of $8.1 million at Sotheby's in May. Out of the 13 works auctioned, many underperformed and two failed to find immediate buyers.
Private sales are being pursued for Albert Bierstadt, "Giant Redwood Trees of California"; Alexander Calder, "Dancing Torpedo Shape"; Thomas Wilmer Dewing, "Two Ladies in a Drawing Room/The White Dress"; George Henry Durrie, "Hunter in Winter Wood"; Thomas Moran, "The Last Arrow"; Charles Wilson Peale, "Portrait of General David Forman"; Benjamin West, "Daniel Interpreting to Belshazzar the Handwriting on the Wall."
The hope is that agreements can be reached to keep these works on public display.
Sotheby's will offer two Qing Dynasty pieces during Asia Week auctions in September: A 10-panel coromandel "birthday" screen from the Kangxi Period, dated Jisi year, corresponding to 1689; and a large blue and white "dragon" vase from the 18th century or early 19th century.
Sold at auction by Sotheby's so far have been:
Impressionist & Modern Art Evening, May 14: Henry Moore, "Three Seated Women" ($300,000); Francis Picabia, "Force Comique" ($1,119,000).
Contemporary Art Evening, May 16: Alexander Calder, "Double Arc and Sphere" ($1,215,000).
European Art, May 22: William Bouguereau's "L'Agneau Nouveau-Né" ($975,000) and "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)" ($1,755,000); Charles François Daubigny, "Paysans allant aux champs (Le Matin)" ($68,750); Alberto Pasini, "Faubourg de Constantinople" (not sold, est. $700k-$1M);
Master Paintings, May 22: Adriaen Isenbrant's "The Flight into Egypt" ($759,000) and "The Temptation of Adam and Eve" ($325,000).
American Art, May 23: Frederic Edwin Church, "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada" (est. at $5-$7M, was sold privately); John La Farge, "Magnolia" ($262,500); Rembrandt Peale, "George Washington" ($225,000); Norman Rockwell, "Blacksmith's Boy – Heel and Toe" ($8,131,000).
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