Museum reveals plans to sell 13 works, including 1 Rockwell

Museum reveals plans to sell 13 works, including 1 Rockwell
The Associated Press

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The Massachusetts museum that won a legal battle over its plan to sell dozens of works of art announced Tuesday that 13 of those pieces, including one by Norman Rockwell, will be auctioned next month.

Rockwell’s “Blacksmith’s Boy-Heel and Toe” is among the pieces for sale by Sotheby’s in May, the Berkshire Museum announced. Works by William Bouguereau, Alexander Calder and John La Farge also are going on the auction block.

“Blacksmith’s Boy-Heel and Toe” was one of two Rockwell pieces the financially struggling museum in Pittsfield said last July it needed to sell in order to stay solvent.

The goal was to raise $55 million to bolster the museum’s endowment and fund renovations as it changes its mission away from art and more toward science and natural history.

But sale of the Rockwell works struck a nerve with many because the famed illustrator lived in nearby Stockbridge for 25 years and had given the works to the museum as gifts.

The sale drew condemnation from national museum organizations and spawned legal challenges, including one that involved Rockwell’s three sons.

His sons dropped their challenge after a separate deal was worked out to sell their father’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” painting to another nonprofit museum that will put on display locally for up to two years.

A single justice of the state’s highest court last week gave the green light for the sale of 39 other works.

The museum says it hopes to meet its $55 million goal without selling all 39 pieces.

“We now hope we can raise what the museum needs by offering for sale fewer than half of the works originally anticipated,” Elizabeth McGraw, president of the museum’s trustees, said in a statement. “That’s good for the museum and the community we serve.”

One major concern of those opposed to the sale was that the public would lose access because the art would be sold to private collectors.

But in an effort to keep the works in the public domain, Sotheby’s is offering extended payment plans to public institutions that purchase the art. Sotheby’s normally requires payment within 30 days, but will allow public institutions to pay in installments over six months or longer.

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