The Real Deal New York

Controversial art sales by cash-strapped museum raise $2M for capital expenses

The works sold in this week's auction came from the beleaguered Berkshire Museum's collection
May 19, 2018 02:13PM

From left: Francis Picabia, the Berkshire Museum, Sotheby’s. (Credit from left: cea +/ Flickr; Berkshire Museum/Wikimedia Commons; Nelson Pavlosky)

Liquidating assets by auctioning off a painting or two seems routine unless the seller is an art museum.

Last summer, the Berkshire Museum made the decision to auction off pieces of its collection in order to raise millions for to pay for capital upgrades, strengthen its collection and essentially keeping the lights on, according to the New York Times.

The museum’s decision drew widespread opposition as many of the items to be sold were long-time local favorites, such as painting by Norman Rockwell and sculpture by Alexander Calder among others. Both locals, other museums and art experts have characterized the sales as a breach of the institution’s mission, but the museum pressed on, with the first rounds of auctions at Sotheby’s occurring this week.

According to the Berkshire Eagle, more than $2 million were raised in two auctions where three pieces–two paintings by artists Francis Picabia and Henry Moore as well as a Calder sculpture–were sold. The Times reported that up to 36 other pieces of art are in the pipeline to be sold until the museum reaches a court-ordered maximum of $55 million. [NYT]Erin Hudson