The Berkshire-based citizens’ group Save the Art – Save the Museum is staging a protest outside of Sotheby’s auction house in New York City Wednesday from 9 to 10am. The group opposes, what they say, is the Berkshire Museum’s unethical deaccession of 40 artworks that were donated to the community and entrusted to the museum, and are now on the auction block at Sotheby’s.

The groups says that it’s calling attention to the impact that they believe the precedent will have on collections of art and artifacts in the public trust held by museums, libraries, and historical societies beyond Massachusetts. The protest follows an earlier demonstration that took place at Sotheby’s on May 14th, before the first auction.

Save the Art has chosen to protest at this sale because the American paintings are considered core to the Berkshire Museum collection and mark the conclusion of the spring auction season. Our presence outside the auction house is intended to emphasize that current law does not adequately protect these important collections held in the public trust.

 ~ Save the Art – Save the Museum spokesperson Hope Davis

The demonstration will occur just prior to Sotheby’s American Art Sale at 10am Wednesday, when the last four of the initial 13 works of art removed from the Berkshire Museum’s collection will hit the auction block. The museum, through the auctions, is hoping to raise $55 million to fund a $40 million endowment and a change to a science-oriented mission.

One painting, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, by Norman Rockwell was sold in advance of the auctions for an undisclosed sum to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, under construction in Los Angeles. On May 14th, works by Henry Moore and Francis Picabia were sold at auction, followed by a sculpture by Alexander Calder on May 16th. The Tuesday, May 22nd auction will offer five works in the European and Old Master paintings categories, including paintings by Bouguereau, Pasini, and Isenbrandt. In Wednesday’s auction, Blacksmith’s Boy, Heel and Toe, another important Rockwell, will be offered along with a major landscape by Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, and a still life by John LaFarge.

Works by Rockwell, Peale, LaFarge and Church

Save the Art – Save the Museum (STA) is a citizens’ group that developed quickly through social media in July 2017, after the Berkshire Museum announced plans to sell its most valuable art. Members meet regularly to organize opposition to the deaccession and to educate the public about viable alternatives. Save the Art – Save the Museum invites fellow supporters to join Wednesday’s protest.