Culture

Mass. Attorney General Files Appeal To Block Berkshire Museum Auction

Rockwell's three sons are among those fighting the sale. But last week the lower court found they lacked legal standing to challenge the sale and the judge also denied an effort by the attorney general to block the sale.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is appealing the ruling by Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini, delivered on Tuesday, allowing the Berkshire Museum to sell some of the most expensive works from its permanent collection at Sotheby's.

"This sale is unprecedented in terms of the number, value and prominence of the works being proposed, the centrality of these works to the Museum's collection, and the process the Museum employed to select and dispose of the deaccessioned items", the attorney's general writes in its brief.

The plaintiffs in two lawsuits filed against the Berkshire Museum to stop the sale - including one filed by three of Norman Rockwell's sons - have filed an emergency motion in support of the AG's appeal.

"We are disappointed that the attorney general has chose to continue legal action that threatens the future of the Berkshire Museum, particularly after a very clear legal decision rejected the arguments the attorney general repeats in this misguided appeal", Lee said in a statement. Lee said in his statement, "jeopardizes vital educational, cultural and economic resources in a struggling community, placing the special interests of a portion of the well-funded arts community over people, especially young people, really in need". "We look forward to the swift resolution of this matter by the Appeals Court". The appeal alleges that Judge Agostini mishandled the earlier request for an injunction, which the AG filed last week. The auction includes a pair of canvases by Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton's Barbershop (1950) and Blacksmith's Boy-Heel and Toe (1940), which the artist gave to the museum. In the meantime, Sotheby's seems poised to begin auctioning the Berkshire Museum works as planned. In their appeal Friday, lawyers for the attorney general said that although their investigation is ongoing, they believe the sale may be "in violation of the charitable trusts for which the museum holds those assets". His family said in a statement released through attorneys Friday that his artwork should remain in the Berkshires "as he intended" and "for all to enjoy". The filing states the judge misunderstood the museum's obligations under the laws governing charitable trusts and its "duties of care", which the AGO says the museum violated by setting unreasonable financial goals that were inconsistent with its objective as a public art museum.

In the meantime, a group called Save the Art - Save the Museum is planning simultaneous rallies at the Berkshire Museum and at Sotheby's auction house in NY at 11am tomorrow, Saturday November 11.



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