Last-minute development in Berkshire deaccession dispute

Posted on: November 13, 2017 by

The Sotheby’s sale of the Berkshire Museum’s artworks, scheduled for the 13th of November, has now been put on hold following the Massachusetts Appeal Court’s decision reversing the previous judgment by the Superior Court, which had cleared the way for the sale.

On Friday the 10th of November, the Court of Appeals granted the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) injunctive relief to block the sale of the artworks. The judgment follows hard on the heels of the Superior Court’s decision some two days earlier, which had rejected requests by Norman Rockwell’s heirs, as well as members and donors of the Berkshire Museum and the AGO, to stop the sale.

The Appeal Court ordered the postponement of the sale until the 11th of December, to allow the AGO time to complete its investigation into a possible breach by the Board of Trustees in the discharge of its fiduciary duties.   Other arguments were also put forward, as in the previous hearing, including the danger of ‘irreparable damage’ should the sale take place.   This last argument was a determining element in the Appeal Court’s decision which found that once the works had been sold, there would be no legal means to bring them back into view and they would be irreparably lost to the public.

After the 11th of December, the AGO can ask for a continuation of the order if an additional period of time should be necessary for it to complete its investigation.

Meanwhile, the two Rockwell works have been withdrawn from the sales catalogue and from the pre-sale viewing exhibition.

You can read the judgment in full here.