Sotheby's estimate: Berkshire Museum art to fetch $46M to $68M

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PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Museum's two Norman Rockwell paintings are estimated to fetch as much as the 38 other artworks slated for the auction block at Sotheby's in the coming months.

"Shuffleton's Barbershop" and "Blacksmith's Boy — Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop)" are expected to raise between $27 million and $40 million. That's slightly more than half of the $46.5 million to $68.6 million Sotheby's estimates will be raised from the combined sale of 36 artworks over the next six months starting this November.

Estimates for four additional works — two mobile statues by Alexander Calder and two marble statues — are not yet confirmed and no auction date is set for them.

The two Rockwell paintings will be among 14 items from the Berkshire Museum up for bid during Sotheby's American Art auction on Nov. 13. Alone, "Shuffleton's" is expected to fetch between $20 million and $30 million, while "Blacksmith's Boy" should raise $7 million to $10 million, according to auction estimates recently released to The Eagle by Sotheby's.

Both "Shuffleton's" and "Blacksmith's Boy" were donated to the museum by Norman Rockwell, who lived and worked in Stockbridge for 25 years until his death in 1978. "Shuffleton's," pica appeared on The Saturday Evening Post's cover of April 29, 1950, was donated to the museum in 1959. "Blacksmith's Boy," which was created to accompany a fictional story by Edward W. O'Brien published in the November 1940 edition of The Post, was donated in 1966.

In July, the Berkshire Museum announced the deaccessioning and planned sale of the 40 works of art to fund a $60 million plan — $40 million to build upon its $8.6 million endowment and a $20 million renovation — designed to secure the museum's future. Proceeds from the auction, which museum officials estimated at the time would raise at least $50 million, will finance a major portion of that plan. The museum's leadership says the reinvention plan will stabilize its finances and re-imagine the 114-year-old space for 21st-century visitors.

The deaccessioning of the work and announced sale has drawn opposition from a number of people who believe museums should only sell artwork to buy more art or improve its collection.

Rockwell's three sons, Jarvis, Peter and Thomas, as well as his three grandsons, publicly opposed the sale of the two paintings in a letter published in The Eagle on Aug. 3.

"Norman Rockwell didn't give ['Shuffleton's'] to finance the museum's renovation plans," they wrote. "He gave it hoping the people of the Berkshires would see it and enjoy it."

The two Rockwell paintings were the only works identified during the initial July 12 public announcement. After public pressure, the museum released the complete list of the 40 artworks on July 24. The auction slate is made up primarily of paintings by American and European artists from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

The list also includes the marble statues "Penelope" and "Judith," the bronze statue "Diana of the Tower," the two works by Calder, and five works from the museum's Asian art collection.

The collection will be auctioned in batches starting in November. In addition to the 14 pieces in the Nov. 13 auction, works from the Berkshire Museum will be part of Sotheby's auctions on Nov. 14, 15 and 21, as well as auctions in February, March and April 2018.

Other works included in the Nov. 13 American Art auction include Rembrandt Peale's "George Washington," George Inness' "Mountain Landscape, The Painter at Work," Frederic Edwin Church's "Valley of Santa Isabel," with an estimated price of $5 million to $7 million, and Albert Bierstadt's "Giant Redwood Trees of California," with an estimated price of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Works by Francis Picabia and Henry Moore will be included in the Nov. 14 Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. Works by Eduard Vuillard and Raoul Dufy will be in the Nov. 15 Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale.

Two works by William Bouguereau, "The Newborn Lamb" and "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)," are among six works included in the Nov. 21 European Art auction. "The Newborn Lamb," previously listed by the museum as "The Shepherdess," is expected to go for $2 million to $3 million. "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)," previously listed by the museum as "The Pony Back Ride" or "The Horseback Ride," could go for $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

Works included in the February 2018 Master Paintings auction include works by Adriaen Isenbrant, Benjamin West and Girolamo Troppa. March's Asia Week auctions will include five pieces from the museum's collection; those pieces are estimated to raise between $165,000 and $260,000.

Reach Online Editor Jen Huberdeau at 413-496-6229.


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