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News Flash: Berkshire Museum’s Head on Medical Leave; 21 of 40 Consignments Pulled from Sotheby’s Auctions

There have been two major plot twists in the convoluted saga of the Berkshire Museum’s highly controversial plans to sell 40 works from its collection at Sotheby’s.

This just in from the Berkshire Museum:

The Berkshire Museum today announced that effective Oct. 31, 2017, museum operations will be led by Acting Co-Executive Directors Nina Garlington [the museum’s chief engagement officer] and Craig Langlois [its chief engagement officer], as Executive Director Van Shields prepares to undergo major surgery and be out on medical leave. Fiduciary matters will remain in the hands of the Board of Trustees.

Mr. Shields is expected to be on leave through approximately the end of the year.

Van Shields

And this posted yesterday afternoon by Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle:

Seven works owned by the Berkshire Museum are now scheduled for sale Nov. 13, half the number originally proposed for the start of a controversial deaccession of art.

The museum is also scaling back, at least for now, the overall size of its sales.

Carol Bosco Baumann, a spokeswoman for the museum, said that only 19 of the original 40 works will be offered for sale in auctions stretching out into March.

“Plans for the balance of the deaccessioned works will be shared in due course by Sotheby’s,” she said in an email to The Eagle, in response to questions about the sales.

For more details on what’s in and what’s out of the auctions, see Parnass’ above-linked piece. It appears that the sales’ two megabucks headliners—the Norman Rockwells—will still be on the block.

These are among the deletions. They are no longer listed in Sotheby’s online catalogue for its Nov. 13 American Art sale:

Frederic Edwin Church, “Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada, 1875
Former presale estimate: $5-7 million

Thomas Moran, “The Last Arrow,” 1867
Former presale estimate: $2-3 million

I’m still trying to determine what’s behind these changes, which were perhaps designed to be seen as a compromise solution, intended to mollify protesters and the Attorney General (who is reviewing the planned sales) and to reduce the museum’s purported financial needs by scaling back aspects of its New Vision.

I’m doubting that Norman Rockwell‘s descendants, who are among those who have filed a lawsuit to stop the sales, will be mollified.

an ArtsJournal blog