Mass. AG asks court to stop Berkshire Museum’s plan to sell art

Selling the artwork to private collectors is ethically wrong.

Photo Courtesy: NEWS10

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) – Prosecutors are asking a court to halt the Berkshire Museum’s plans to sell 40 works of art.

The Massachusetts Attorney General is urging the court to stop the museum’s plans to sell artwork until legal questions are worked out. It may be impossible to get the artworks back if a court later finds the museum wasn’t allowed to sell them in the first place.

Included in the potential sale are two Norman Rockwell paintings.

“Well, how can something that is not relevant be worth $20 million each?” Carol Diehl, of Housatonic, said.

Both “Shuffelton’s Barbershop” and “Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop” were gifted to the museum by Rockwell. The museum is hoping to sell them for $40 million.

Diehl said selling the artwork to private collectors is ethically wrong.

“These were to be placed in the public trust,” she said. “Rockwell donated his for the permanent collection. I don’t think there are too many ways you can interpret ‘permanent collection.’”

Opposition quickly mounted as the museum announced 40 pieces of artwork could be sold. The auction was scheduled for November.

The sale would fund a “new vision” for the museum. But now the Massachusetts AG is stepping in.

Attorney General Maura Healey is joining calls from Rockwell’s three sons and several others for a restraining order in the sale.

Prosecutor asks court to stop museum’s sale of Rockwell art

The AG’s office is investigating whether the museum is within its legal rights. It also notes there are several aspects of the museum’s plans that raise concerns.

Diehl said it’s everything the community has been fighting for.

“I mean, this really shows to me what community organizations and individuals can do,” she said. “It’s just great.”

There is a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday on the lawsuit filed by Rockwell’s sons and several other plaintiffs. Diehl said she plans to be there.

Emily Snyder, Deputy Press Secretary Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued the following statement to NEWS10 ABC:

The Berkshire Museum is important to the community and a resource for the entire state. We are hopeful that this court proceeding presents an opportunity to explore alternatives to this sale that will maintain the art collection and allow the museum to thrive in the years to come.

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