The Berkshire Museum of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has announced it will sell off nine additional works from its collection. Last month, the museum failed to meet its goal of raising $55m for a major renovation through the controversial sale of 13 works at Sotheby’s New York, coming in short at $43m. The deaccessioning was allowed as part of an agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office that kept one of the most valuable pieces, Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950) by Norman Rockwell, on public view. It was acquired by George Lucas for his soon to be built museum in Los Angeles, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
After Selling Holdings for Sake of Diversity, Baltimore Museum of Art Acquires Work by Jack Whitten, Amy Sherald, and More
By Alex Greenberger. From ArtNews. Posted on 6/26/18.
In April, the Baltimore Museum of Art announced a controversial decision to deaccession works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Franz Kline in hopes of using the proceeds to add pieces by women and persons of color to its collection. Those works hit the auction block at Sotheby’s auction house in New York in May, and today the museum named seven new acquisitions made with money gained from those sales.
Among the new holdings are an abstracted vision of September 11, 2001, by Jack Whitten, who witnessed that fateful day from his studio and painted it using his chipped acrylic tile method, and a painting by Amy Sherald, of two people on a plain watching a rocket launch into space. (Sherald, who is a board member at the BMA, recused herself from the decision to acquire her work, according to a museum spokesperson.) The other purchases include a video work by Isaac Julien, a painting by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a sculpture by Wangechi Mutu, and two film pieces by Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley.
By Larry Parnass. From The Berkshire Eagle. Posted on 6/05/18.
PITTSFIELD — Trustees allowed debate over the Berkshire Museum's financial challenges to snowball into an excessive art sale, two former board members tell The Eagle, as officials backed a costly shift to interactive exhibits based on thin evidence.
Carol Riordan and Nancy Edman Feldman say that while the museum's money problems were real, the Pittsfield institution could have ensured its future with far less than the $55 million it is allowed to raise through sales under terms of an agreement with Attorney General Maura Healey.
Both fault trustees and Executive Director Van Shields for not doing enough to right the museum's finances through fund appeals and other means.
"I was not going to sell the assets of the organization before trying everything," said Riordan, a Pittsfield resident who served as treasurer of the board of trustees. "I care. I care about the community and I care about the museum."
By Michael DeMarsche and Bob Ekelund. From artsy.com. Posted on 5/30/18.
A number of art museums over the past decade have run into financial trouble, for reasons ranging from declining donations to adverse local situations (Detroit, for example), as well as increasing storage costs for housing ever-increasing acquisitions. Often, as is the case of the Berkshire Museum, factors are out of museum management’s control. The region around the museum’s seat of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, fell victim to industrial decline. Unfortunately, museums of all sizes may face future financial headwinds, thanks to an increase in private museums; changes in the tax treatment of gifts since last year’s tax bill was signed into law; and the high probability of a recession within the next two or three years, which could dampen charitable giving.
There is a solution within reach. Museums could deaccession, or sell, works from their collections, in order to shore up their finances, mount more shows, and reduce admission costs. The only hitch? The country’s major accrediting group, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), won’t let them. Just last week, the AAM in conjunction with the Association of Art Museum Directors, announced sanctions on the Berkshire Museum for doing so, as well as the art museum at Philadelphia’s La Salle University.
By Timothy Cahill. From Hyperallergic. Posted on 5/31/18.
It has begun. The first 13 of the 40 works marked for deaccession by the Berkshire Museum have been sold. George Lucas has bought Norman Rockwell’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” (1950) for his new museum and a baker’s dozen more were sent to the block earlier this month at Sotheby’s spring sales. These were the first works sold at auction following the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, museum’s settlement with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. In February, Healey approved the sale designed to pad the museum’s endowment and radically reshape its mission, capping the spoils at a maximum of $55 million. The agreement, which to critics is a bit of a farce itself, has turned the sale into a three-act melodrama. The art is to be disposed of in three separate groups or “tranches,” until the total dollar amount is achieved. Tranche is a banking term derived from the Old French word for “slice”; the settlement, Healey’s office insists, was the best half-a-loaf compromise existing law allowed to mitigate the sell-off. Watching the auctions over the past two weeks, it felt more like death by a thousand cuts.
Museum Directors’ Association to Impose Sanctions on the Berkshire Museum and La Salle University Art Museum
By Eileen Kinsella. From news.artnet.com. Posted on 5/25/18.
The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) said in a statement today that the move “follows the decision made by each institution to use the proceeds from recent art sales to support operating budgets or expansion initiatives, a decision that violates one of the core principles of art museums. These actions are in opposition to AAMD’s policy that such funds must be used only to support acquisitions of art.”
The last time the AAMD voted for such sanctions was against the Delaware Museum of Art in June 2014. Those sanctions, as of today, remain in effect.
Neither representatives for the Berkshire Museum nor La Salle University Art Museum immediately responded to request for comment.
From NPR. By Andrew Limbong. Posted on 5/19/18.
A piece by the artist Kerry James Marshall was auctioned off this week and became the highest selling piece by a living black artist. "Past Times," which is part painting and part collage, features black people relaxing, boating, playing croquet along a river.
Also in that auction were works by Andy Warhol and Franz Kline — they were being sold by the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is planning to use the money from the sales to acquire more pieces specifically by women and artists of color (and maybe their own version of a Kerry James Marshall.)
Bidding among the well-dressed crowd at Sotheby's auction house in New York started at over $2 million dollars for the Warhol. Called "Oxidation Painting," it's a rust colored splatter work made out of paint and urine.
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