Katie and Steve give listeners an update on the Berkshire Museum deaccessioning controversy. The Massachusetts Attorney General and the Museum have reached an agreement, pending approval by the Supreme Judicial Court, permitting sales of up to $55 million with the famous Norman Rockwell painting Shuffleton’s Barbershop going to an undisclosed museum. The Rockwell sons have dropped out of the litigation, but the other plaintiffs oppose the compromise and are still fighting.
In our first full-length episode, we discuss the Berkshire Museum’s controversial decision to sell off 40 works of iconic art from its permanent collection to raise funds to rebrand itself as a science and natural history museum, and build a large endowment. Only after the regional museum had signed an agreement with Sotheby’s auction house to deaccession these works, did the museum announce its plans to the public. Museum and cultural groups, the fine arts community, and certain local constituents have passionately opposed these plans. Other stakeholders and commentators have strongly supported the museum’s efforts to monetize its collection and rebrand. We will discuss both the ethical and legal issues around deaccessioning and the Berkshire Museum’s actions in particular. We are joined by the financial and art-market journalist, Felix Salmon.
In our introductory episode we introduce ourselves and discuss the podcast’s theme of exploring topics where art intersects with and interferes with the law, and vice versa. We preview upcoming episodes, including our first full length episode on when and how museums may sell art from their collections (known as deaccessioning) and the public outcry these decisions have. Other episodes will explore artist moral rights and street art, censorship of art, scientific analysis of art and authenticity scandals, appropriation art and the limits of copyright, art and activism, the rise of art financing, art auctions and Nazi looted art and cultural property disputes. Episodes will feature discussions of current events and guest commentary.