Letter: A knee-jerk reaction backing museum plan

To the editor:

Reading Phil Coleman's pro de-accession Oct. 9 oped commentary "Museum critics are stuck in the past," I was struck by the fact that he offers no real arguments to justify the Berkshire Museum's selloff of part of the Berkshires' cultural heritage other than their "outrageous escalation in price."

He tells us that he has supported every major project promoted by every cultural, hospitality, residential venue to come off the drawing boards in the past decade, and then he criticizes any opposition as a knee-jerk reaction. He equates all change with progress as if both words meant the same thing; a knee-jerk reaction if I've ever seen one.

The writer goes on to call those who disagree as "malicious" and compares the Save-the-Art Movement to the latest tactic of alt-right, Neo-Nazi crazies who are attempting to deny history by reframing the Civil War as some sort of states' rights movement. Who is being malicious here?

He rails against the treatment of Native Americans, slavery and The Gilded Age. I believe the gentleman is confused. Norman Rockwell was not George Lincoln Rockwell. He was not a racist, and gave us this art to be held in perpetuity. Why does Mr. Coleman think people come to the Berkshires if not to appreciate such major cultural venues as The Mount, The Clark Art Institute and Tanglewood, all of which spring directly from the heritage, an important part of which, he is so anxious to see sold off.

Mr. Coleman defends museum director Van Shields who began talking de-accession before he even set down his carpetbag. He forgets that the Berkshire Museum is open to all, not just to those of us he blithely describes as rich, snobbish, retired elitists. Ironically the rich will be the only ones able to view our wonderful art once the hammer descends at Sotheby's. He tells us that fundraising is impossible despite the fact that our many cultural venues all seem to be doing a very good job at it indeed.

Sorry Mr. Coleman, your illogic is based on the demonstrably false premise that all change equals progress. The members of the Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees will be remembered as having violated their trust. They have fallen victim to the latest shiny object and, by the way, so have you. Unlike great art, trendy "New Visions" such as that being promoted by Mr. Shields are in the habit of becoming obsolete with the next wave of innovation. The real tragedy is that once this latest one is ready for the junk heap, a few days before it opens, our irreplaceable heritage will have long since become a trophy on the wall of some one percenter's McMansion.

Richard Wise,


The writer is the author of two books and is a self-described semi-retired elitist.


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