At the request of Atty. Gen. Maura Healey appeals court blocks Berkshire Museum art sale

Boston – On Friday afternoon (Nov. 10), Attorney General Maura Healey filed a request with the Massachusetts Appeals Court seeking a temporary injunction against the sale of artwork from the museum’s collection at an auction scheduled for Monday, November 13, at Sotheby’s in New York.

The appeals court agreed. Late Friday, the court granted that request, writing that the museum was prohibited “from selling, auctioning, or otherwise disposing of any of the artworks that have been listed for auction.”

The injunction expires December 11, but the attorney general’s office may file to extend it.

The attorney general’s intervention sought to overturn a Tuesday (November 7) ruling by Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini allowing the sale of 40 works, including two iconic Norman Rockwell paintings, to proceed. Members of the Rockwell family had filed suit against the museum, arguing that the sale of the Rockwell paintings, as well as other artwork donated to the museum and entrusted to its keeping, violated the terms of the donation.

The Berkshire Museum immediately issued a statement from its attorney William F. Lee decrying the attorney general’s action:

“We are disappointed that the Attorney General has decided to continue legal action that threatens the future of the Berkshire Museum, particularly after a very clear legal decision rejected the arguments the Attorney General repeats in this misguided appeal.  Continuing this litigation jeopardizes vital educational, cultural and economic resources in a struggling community, placing the special interests of a portion of the well-funded arts community over people, especially young people, really in need. We look forward to the swift resolution of this matter by the Appeals Court.”

In the meantime, in acknowledgement of the approaching date for the controversial sale of art from the Berkshire Museum, the grassroots citizens’ group Save the Art – Save the Museum had scheduled an “eleventh-hour” rally to oppose the auction. The demonstration is to take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Berkshire Museum.

On the same date and time, Save the Art will also stage a protest gathering at Sotheby’s in New York City. New York organizers encourage supporters to take the opportunity to see the works now on display for auction and meet others who oppose the sale.

Save the Art was disappointed by Tuesday’s ruling by Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini allowing the auction to proceed. Save the Art and the plaintiffs in the case are hopeful that Attorney General Maura Healey will prevail with an injunction to pause the sale.