FAQs regarding the Berkshire Museum’s proposed sale of two paintings by Norman Rockwell
Q. Is Norman Rockwell Museum selling Norman Rockwell paintings?
Rather, the Berkshire Museum (located in Pittsfield, MA) plans to sell 40 works of art, including two Norman Rockwell paintings: Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950) and The Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop (1940), which were originally gifted to the Berkshire Museum directly by Norman Rockwell for the education and enjoyment of the community.
Q. What is the lawsuit by the Rockwell Family about?
A. The three sons of artist Norman Rockwell are plaintiffs, together with other community members in lawsuits filed against the Berkshire Museum (not the Norman Rockwell Museum) to halt the Berkshire Museum’s sale of 40 artworks including two donated by their father. The Rockwell family members operate separately from the Norman Rockwell Museum. Many media sources have recently reported on this story.
Q. What is Norman Rockwell Museum’s position on this sale?
A. The Norman Rockwell Museum appreciates the challenges facing the Berkshire Museum, but sincerely hopes that an alternative solution to selling the works will be found. We agree with Norman Rockwell’s family that it would be a terrible loss to Pittsfield and the larger Berkshire community if the two paintings that Rockwell donated to the Berkshire Museum—for the education and enjoyment of the community—left the region.
In addition, the Norman Rockwell Museum supports the position of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the recognized professional organizations, as well as the Massachusetts Cultural Council. These associations have formally stated their opposition to the sale of art for the purposes stated by the Berkshire Museum.
Q. What are the professional standards regarding sale of artworks from Museum collections?
A. AAM has stated, “One of the most fundamental and long-standing principles of the museum field is that a collection is held in the public trust and must not be treated as a disposable financial asset.” This prohibition is upheld by both AAMD and by AAM, which sets accreditation standards not only for art museums, but also for science centers, natural history museums, and historical museums.
Q. Will Norman Rockwell Museum try to buy either of these paintings?
A. The Norman Rockwell Museum, a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit educational museum, does not have the resources to purchase these works, and is generally not in a position to purchase original Norman Rockwell art, which has been selling at record prices at auction in recent years.
The Rockwell Museum hopes that the Berkshire Museum will initiate a pause in its plans to sell these and other works in order to find a solution that does not entail the loss of cultural heritage. If the works are in fact sold, we hope that the Rockwell paintings might be loaned by the purchaser to the Norman Rockwell Museum or another cultural organization so that the public can continue to experience these important works.
Q. Have the paintings ever been loaned by the Berkshire Museum to Norman Rockwell Museum?
A. Yes, the Berkshire Museum has generously loaned these works to our museum and to others on a number of occasions. We hope that they remain accessible to the public, either at the Berkshire Museum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, or another public institution.
Q. What is the history behind these paintings? Why are they so special?
A. Both Shuffleton’s Barbershopand Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop, which were created by Norman Rockwell during the years he lived in Vermont, depict uniquely New England scenes. They are among his greatest works, with Shuffleton’s Barbershop a true masterpiece by any standards.
Norman Rockwell donated these paintings to the Berkshire Museum in 1959 and 1966 respectively for the education and enjoyment of the Berkshire community. Rockwell and the Berkshire Museum’s former director, Stuart Henry, shared a warm personal and professional friendship for many years.
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Statement from Rockwell family
Information regarding the lawsuit