Sotheby’s, New York, has released the auction dates and estimates for 40 works of art from the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which announced this summer that it will sell off objects from its permanent collection to raise funds for a $20m refurbishment and $40m endowment. The announcement comes despite months of backlash from the public and associations like the AAM and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), who were “deeply opposed” to the plan, as works of art are commonly only sold to further funds for acquisitions. The sales are slated to take place from 13 November through next spring and include major pieces by American and European artists.
The house’s American Art sale on 13 November will include two original paintings by the American artist Norman Rockwell—Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop (1940) (est $20m-$30m) and Shuffleton Barbershop (1950) (est. $7m-$10m)—perhaps the most controversial works to be offered, since the museum was given the works by the artist. The salealso includes Hudson River School paintings like Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada (1875) by Frederic Edwin Church (est $5m-$7m), a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale (est $200,000-$300,000) and Diana of the Tower (1899) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (est. $250,000-$350,000), a 26-inch copy of the sculpture that once topped the historic Madison Square Garden in New York before it was demolished. (Another larger version is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.)
On 14 November, in Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale, there will be works by Henry Moore and Francis Picabia, and the Impressionist and Modern Art day sale on 15 November will feature watercolours by Raoul Dufy and Edourade Vuillard. On 21 November, the European Art sale will feature works by William Bougeureau, Charles Francois Daubigny, Daniel Ridgway Knight, Alberto Pasini and Edwin Lord Weeks.
The sale of Old Master paintings on February 2018, will feature works by Pieter de Hooch, Adriaen Isenbrant, Girolamo Troppa, Jan Victors, Benjamin West and a painting attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds. The house’s Asia Week sale in March 2018 features various artefacts from the Zhou and Qing Dyansties, as well as a Japanese folding screen from the late 17th century. Four final works—two mobiles by Alexander Calder and marble sculptures by Franklin Simmons and Giulio Tadolini—will be includes in sales yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Berkshire Museum this week ended its relationship with the Smithsonian Institution, which requires affiliate museums to comply with the code of ethics and standards set by the American Alliance of Museums. Through the partnership, which it started in 2013 and costs just $3,000 a year, the Berkshire museum had access to the Smithsonian’s objects, scholars and programmes, such as Spark!Lab, a travelling exhibition that came to Massachusetts in 2014. The sales are also expected to cause the Berkshire Museum to be blacklisted by other institutions that are members of the AAM and AAMD, cutting off its access to art loans and touring exhibitions.