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George Lucas gives Rockwell fans new hope with acquisition of Shuffleton’s Barbershop

The work will first goes on loan in Massachusetts and possibly elsewhere

The mystery institutional buyer of Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950), which was given by the artist to the Berkshire Museum and sold off to fund a major renovation, has been revealed to be the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. “As a museum dedicated to celebrating visual storytelling, we are honoured to become the public steward of this major work,” said Don Bacigalupi, the Lucas Museum’s founding president. “Norman Rockwell is one of our nation’s most important storytellers, and this cultural treasure will continue to be seen and enjoyed by the public in an American museum, where it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come.”

The acquisition was part of a deal brokered with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office that would allow the Berkshire Museum to deaccession around 40 works from its collection. Norman Rockwell’s sons were among those who opposed the sale, but they dropped their lawsuit against the museum after the agreement spared Shuffleton’s Barbershop from the auction block, where it was estimated to make $20m to $30m. (The price the Lucas Museum paid was not disclosed.) Thirteen other works, including another painting by Rockwell given to the museum, Blacksmith’s Boy—Heel and Toe (top est $10m), Frederic Edwin Church’s Church Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada ($7m) and Alexander Calder’s Double Arc and Sphere ($3), are now due to go on sale at Sotheby’s in May.

George Lucas is a major collector of Rockwell’s work, so when Shuffleton’s Barbershop comes to the Los Angeles museum, which is currently under construction and due to open in 2022, it will be displayed along with other examples by the artist already in the collection, including Saying Grace (1951) and After the Prom (1957). Before it travels cross-country, however, the works will go on long-term loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge until 2020, and the Lucas Museum is also looking at other loans “to maximise public access to this beloved work of art”, according to a statement.

“We are immensely grateful to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art for ensuring that Norman Rockwell's masterpiece Shuffleton's Barbershop will continue to be available to and enjoyed by the public,” says Laurie Norton Moffatt, the director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum, in a statement. “It is especially meaningful for the people of Berkshire County who will have the opportunity to enjoy this masterpiece for a few more years, knowing that it will remain in the public realm.”