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.
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