Art Law Report

Appeals Court Stays Sale of Berkshire Museum Paintings

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 10, 2017 at 10:43 PM

Attorney General’s Motion, Supported by Private Plaintiffs, is Allowed on the Eve of Auction

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has stopped the imminent auction of paintings owned by the Berkshire Museum.  Late Friday, a single justice of the Appeals Court issued the following order:

ORDER: After reviewing the parties' submissions, the request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendant, Trustees of the Berkshire Museum from selling, auctioning, or otherwise disposing of any of the artworks that have been listed for auction commencing on November 13, 2017, is allowed. The balance of the risk of irreparable harm to the petitioner and the respondent in light of each party's chance of success on the merits weighs in favor of the petitioner. Packaging Industries Group, Inc. v. Cheney, 380 Mass. 609, 615-617 (1980). The injunction shall expire on December 11, 2017. Prior to the expiration of the injunction, the Attorney General's Office may move to extend the injunction with a date certain by which the investigation will be completed. (Trainor, J.). Notice/attest/Agostini, J.

This order allowed Attorney General Maura Healey’s motion filed Friday morning, which identified persuasively the numerous reasons why not only should the Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 order be overturned, but also why an injunction now against the sale was necessary to prevent the irreparable harm that would follow once the paintings began to be sold. The sales were set to begin on Monday in New York.

Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for a group of museum members who sued to enjoin the sale, said, “My clients are pleased that the auction has been halted.  They remain alarmed at the Berkshire Museum’s treatment of its members and of the art that it holds in trust for the community.  With the benefit of some breathing room and the continued investigation by the Attorney General, they are hopeful that reason will prevail.”

Topics: Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Attorney General, Maura Healey

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