The Berkshire Museum’s planned auction of 40 works from its collection could fetch more than $68 million, a polarizing decision to sell that has drawn both local protest and national fire in the museum world.
On Wednesday, Sotheby’s auction house announced price estimates and auction dates for the artworks, which include two paintings by Norman Rockwell: “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” estimated at $20 million to $30 million, and “Blacksmith’s Boy — Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop),” estimated at $7 million to $10 million. Both works are slated for Sotheby’s American Art sale in New York on Nov. 13.
Other works scheduled for the November sale include Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church’s “Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada” and Albert Bierstadt’s “Giant Redwood Trees of California (King’s River, Big Tree Grove, California).”
Van Shields, executive director of the Pittsfield museum, has said proceeds from the sale would go toward bolstering the museum’s endowment and funding renovations.
Both the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors have denounced the plan, and this week the museum ended its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, a 2013 partnership that gave the Berkshire Museum access to some of the Smithsonian’s resources.
Shields told The Berkshire Eagle that the museum had withdrawn from the partnership voluntarily: “We knew the decision to deaccession art to fund an endowment would not be in compliance with the American Alliance of Museum’s guidelines for the use of proceeds,” Shields said in a statement to the Eagle.
Other works up for auction include a painting by Benjamin West, sculptures by Alexander Calder, and a work on paper by Henry Moore.
The 40 works will be sold at various auctions extending into 2018.