Letter: Transparency = trust for Berkshire Museum
In the Berkshire Museum's recent open letter to the community, the museum's leadership promised to be transparent, cooperative and thoughtful toward regaining public trust and confidence. These are empty words unless followed by action. The museum has released the financial information required by law, but the most important action the board can take toward transparency is to reveal the terms of its agreement with Sotheby's, signed before the decision to sell the most significant works in the collection was announced to the public.
The extent of the museum's secrecy extends to the attorney general's office, who told members of Save The Art-Save The Museum that they also were not fully informed of the terms of the contract.
Now the museum is poised to sell a group that includes paintings by core Hudson River School artists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, and a sculpture by Alexander Calder, all with important local connections, which could still form the basis of an important collection.
The museum has already made more money with completed sales than any institution of its size and demographic needs for an endowment and building renovation. Why then, is it continuing with another round? Is it because it is beholden to Sotheby's to sell the entire lot? Does the museum have a binding agreement with the auction house that has prevented it from responding to community pressure to save the art? Is this nonprofit institution, supported by donors and taxpayers, more accountable to an international corporation than to its own constituency?
The public deserves to be assured that any nonprofit is being run for public, not private, interests — but especially here where tens of millions of dollars are involved.
We demand full disclosure.
The writers are members of Save the Art-Save the Museum.
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