According to a press release issued today by the Berkshire Museum, the Museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office today filed a joint request with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court seeking court approval for the Museum to take necessary steps to ensure its financial future.
The agreement would authorize the museum to sell works of art to address clear financial need. A nonprofit American museum has agreed to purchase and place on prominent display in its collection Norman Rockwell’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop.” The painting will also be loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum for a period of up to two years with future opportunities to loan the painting to museums in the Berkshires and Massachusetts.
The legal filing details an agreement reached by the AG’s Office and the Berkshire Museum that would end all legal action between them if approved by the Supreme Judicial Court. In the filings, both sides recognize the museum’s dire financial condition, concluding the sale is necessary to secure the future and the mission of the museum to “to bring people together for experiences that spark creativity and innovative thinking by making inspiring, educational connections among art, history and natural science.”
The AG’s Office, through its investigation, determined that the Berkshire Museum has met its demonstrated financial need to lift or modify restrictions that limit or prohibit the Museum from selling the works and using proceeds from such sales, and has worked with the Museum to present today’s submission to the Court. The AG’s office had said that, in such a situation, court review is necessary before any sale.
“This agreement helps secure the future of the Berkshire Museum for years to come, while preserving Shuffleton’s Barbershop for public view, in keeping with the wishes of Norman Rockwell,” AG Healey said. “We are pleased that this agreement will allow the Berkshire Museum to thrive, ensures that no more art than necessary will be sold, and honors the legacy of Norman Rockwell and his masterpiece, Shuffleton’s Barbershop.”
Elizabeth McGraw, President of the Board of Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, said, “For the people of Berkshire County who rely on our museum to engage with the arts, history, and science, this agreement is the promise of a long future for our small but extraordinary museum and its collection. We hope it will also mark the beginning of a time when our community can come together again.”
Under this agreement, the Berkshire Museum is authorized to sell, through Sotheby’s, works of art previously deaccessioned, with the agreement structured so that the Museum is able to reach its demonstrated financial need of $55 million without necessarily selling all 40 works.
Net proceeds between $50 – $55 million will be held by the Museum in a separate fund for the benefit of the Museum’s collection and to be used for acquisitions and to support the Museum’s collection, and any net proceeds that exceed $55 million will be held by the Museum in a separate fund for the benefit of the Museum’s art collection and to be used for acquisitions and to support the Museum’s art collection.
At the direction of the Berkshire Museum, and with the support of the AGO, Sotheby’s identified a nonprofit American museum who has agreed to purchase “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” with conditions ensuring the work will remain in prominent public view, including a loan of the painting to the Norman Rockwell Museum for a period of 18 to 24 months. Following the loan, the museum purchasing the work will explore the possibility of loaning “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” to other museums in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“It was very important to so many in the community and to us that “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” remain accessible to the public. We are pleased a museum buyer was identified who will not only bring this painting to the public but will respect the unique connection of Berkshire County to Norman Rockwell,” said McGraw.
“It is in the best interests of both sides, and particularly the people of Berkshire County, that these issues be resolved to allow the Berkshire Museum to continue to be an invaluable resource in the culture, education, and economy of the region long into the future. Our hope is that this represents the end of a legal dispute and a new beginning that brings together those divided by that dispute,” said William Lee of WilmerHale, lead counsel for the Berkshire Museum.