Letter: Museum decision frees barbarians to pillage
The New Vision at the Berkshire Museum is a victory for the barbarians; their intentions to demolish the interior makes them vandals. Every art collection in every museum in the country is now in play. Mark Gold and Van Shields might as well franchise their product.
Zenas Crane's noble vision means nothing to these ignoble savages because they know nothing about art, and they don't care. The Eagle covered Shields' history thoroughly. Gold provided the ideology for turning art into gold, a pot worth upward of $50 million. Elizabeth McGraw knew how to keep the board members on a tight leash with warnings that "loose lips sink ships." Sotheby's provided the upscale pirate's den where the plan was polished. Then came the astonishing failure of Attorney General Maura Healey to do her job. At first, she seemed to recognize the culpable negligence of the board, but without a word of explanation, she turned and became the museum's best friend in Justice Lowry's courtroom.
The failure of the board to do what every board of a nonprofit organization is required to do — raise money or step aside — was conveniently forgotten. Museums now can stop fundraising and sell their collection to keep the doors open, sell the treasures, which, above all, they have a duty to preserve.
Judge Agostini at least offered a limp apology for approving the sale. Lowry saw no problems anywhere and went into the weeds to invent a dizzy, complicated disposal plan for "Shuffleton's Barbershop," seemingly designed to enable a rich, unnamed individual (we now know it was George Lucas) in California to evade sales taxes by exhibiting the painting in the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for a few years (we now know the Lucas museum won't be finished for years).
The looting was legitimized with a stroke of Lowry's pen, just in time for Sotheby's next auction. The barbarians are now free to play their game without interference and the New Vision looks more and more like what it always was, vintage flim-flam updated for the way we live now. One day people will look back on the museum and also recall the Pittsfield train station that was demolished for no good reason and recognize both as victims of the same curse.
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