Berkshire Museum art sale opponents plan Saturday vigil

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PITTSFIELD — Opponents of Berkshire Museum art sales plan to mark the one-year anniversary of that move with a downtown rally this weekend.

In the months after the July 12, 2017, announcement, members of a citizens group held regular rallies outside the 39 South St. museum, hoping to persuade trustees to reconsider their plan to sell up to 40 works from their collection to address what they termed a financial crisis.

Since the last rally, 13 works were sold at auction or in private sales, raising $47 million. Trustees have said they plan to sell an additional nine works.

Members of the group Save the Art-Save the Museum say they will gather Saturday outside the museum to ask trustees to stop any additional sales.

The rally and vigil will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to attend, the group said in a statement.

While sales have already taken place "the issue is still very much alive," the group said.

"Public presence at the rally will send a message to the museum's board that it is vital to listen to the community, safeguard its art treasures, and restore Zenas Crane's original mission to maintain a `window on the world' for adults and children," the statement said.

An agreement reached between the museum and Attorney General Maura Healey, then approved April 5 by the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, allows the museum to raise $55 million through art sales, under certain conditions.

Museum officials said the sales will enable them to continue to operate. At the time the sales were announced, trustees estimated that without a new source of operating funds, they would face the need to close the museum in six to eight years.

But opponents of the sale continue to question the need for any sales — and are now focused on attempting to halt added ones. Paintings by Albert Bierstadt, Alexander Calder, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, George Henry Durrie and Thomas Moran are scheduled to go to market in coming months, among other works.

"With $47 million now in the bank, the board cannot claim that it needs to further strip away the collection `to keep its doors open,'" the group said.

Trustees said in an open letter May 31 they expect to firm up plans for a new interactive and multimedia approach to exhibitions by the end of the year, after hiring a consultant to advise them on a new business plan.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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