Pictured Above: "Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop", by Norman Rocwell, is one of the paintings the Berkshire Museum is looking to sell.
The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass., is trying to sell Norman Rockwell paintings in an effort to stay afloat, a decision that is dividing the local community ― the heart of Rockwell country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Much of the benefaction would come from the sale of two paintings that Rockwell personally donated to the museum. “Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop” in 1966 and “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” in 1958.
“Shuffleton’s” alone could fetch as much as $30 million, according to estimates by Sotheby’s.
“This is a betrayal,” says Geoffrey Rockwell, 58, and the eldest grandson of Rockwell, the esteemed chronicler of small-town America who lived in Stockbridge amid the rolling hills of this Berkshires region until his death in 1978.
The 115-year-old Berkshire Museum’s collection of 40,000 objects includes an Egyptian mummy, a live octogenarian tortoise named Chuck, and the whole-body fur suit worn in an early 1900s expedition to the North Pole. It is proposing to sell 40 paintings to fund a $60 million plan to boost its roughly $6 million endowment and renovate its building for a “heightened emphasis on science and history as well as the arts.”
The museum says it is broke and on a path toward oblivion. Museum leaders say the area, which has lost population and big manufacturers over the decades, can no longer support the museum. Too many nonprofits in the Berkshires, now a cultural hub, are vying for too few donor dollars, they say.
Opponents of the sale say the museum is overstating its predicament and could try harder to find other solutions. They say the paintings were meant to benefit Berkshire County residents — not to be possibly sold to wealthy investors for private collections.