Art Law Report

Event—Deaccessioning: Art, Morals, and the Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 4, 2018 at 5:00 PM

I will be speaking to the Copyright Society of the USA on Thursday May 10, 2018 at 5:30 pm at Northeastern University Law School at 250 Dockser Hall – 65 Forsythe Street in Boston.  The presentation will discuss the legal and ethical implications of recent sales or proposed sales by museums of works of art in their collections, including the Barnes Foundation, the Corcoran, and the Berkshire Museum.  The event is free of charge and open to the public.  RSVP is preferred but not required, see attached flyer for details.  the event is co-sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. and Northeastern’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity.

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Topics: Copyright Society of the U.S.A., Deaccessioning, Corcoran Gallery, Barnes Foundation, Berkshire Museum, Northeastern University Law School

Members of the Berkshire Museum Ask Supreme Judicial Court to Stop Berkshire Museum’s Deaccession Plan

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 26, 2018 at 5:36 PM

(Boston, MA, February 26, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg filed today a brief with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts asking the state’s highest court not to permit the sale of 40 works of art by the Berkshire Museum. The Berkshire Museum filed a petition on February 9, 2018 asking the SJC to permit deviation from the historical restrictions that would prevent such sale. Today the museum member filed a brief as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.”

Partner Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for the members, said, “My clients are optimistic that the SJC will see through the Berkshire Museum’s petition to deviate from its historical restrictions as unnecessary, and harmful. Such a petition must show that the current state of affairs is impossible or impracticable, and that the requested change is ‘as near as possible’ to the original purpose of the institution. This petition fails to meet either criterion.”

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Shuffleton’s Barbershop

Members of the Berkshire Museum Pledge to Continue Fight Against Liquidation of the Museum’s Art Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 13, 2018 at 2:45 PM

(Boston, MA, February 13, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg sharply denounced today the agreement that was announced Friday evening between the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to permit the sale of every one of 40 works of art that the members—and AG Healey—sued last year to prevent.  Only two weeks after filing a 50-page brief in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that detailed numerous violations of the Trustees’ fiduciary duties and specific restrictions on the 40 works of art, the Attorney General’s office has filed its assent to the Museum’s request to modify its governing charter to permit the immediate sale of Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop to an unnamed buyer, and to allow the sale of the 39 remaining works thereafter without any further oversight of the governance of the Museum.

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Berkshire Museum, Maura Healey

Members of the Berkshire Museum File Appeal Papers to Stop Museum's Planned Sale of 40 Works from its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 16, 2018 at 6:56 PM

 (Boston, MA, January 16, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed its papers in the appeal by its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal was brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case.  That order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that includes Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Maura Healey, Massachusetts Appeals Court

Injunction Against Berkshire Museum Sale Is Extended

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2017 at 11:08 AM

The Single Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court (Joseph A. Trainor) has extended the injunction against the Berkshire Museum's proposed sale of 40 works of art in its collection until at least January 29, 2018.  In its order today in response to the Attorney General's status report, the justice stated:

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Topics: Berkshire Museum, Attorney General, Maura Healey, Single justice, Massachusetts Appeals Court, Joseph A. Trainor

Members of the Berkshire Museum Appeal Ruling on Planned Sale of Critical Pieces of its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 20, 2017 at 10:22 AM

Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed an appeal on behalf of its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal is brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case (before the Appeals Court utlimately enjoined the sale until at least December).  That Superior Court order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that include Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Attorney General, Maura Healey, Berkshire County Superior Court

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.

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

Massachusetts AG Asks Appeals Court to Halt Monday's Berkshire Museum Sale

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 10, 2017 at 2:21 PM

The Massachusetts Attorney General has moved the Appeals Court of Massachusetts for an emergency injunction pending appeal of the November 7, 2017 decision denying the motions by the AG, my clients, and others, seeking to enjoin the auctions beginning Monday of 40 paintings and works of art belonging to the Berkshire Museum.

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Berkshire Museum, Attorney General

Rich Man/Poor Man?  The Berkshire Museum and Why Deaccessioning is so Frustrating

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 23, 2017 at 6:11 PM

Two wonderful museums recently announced plans to sell major works of art.  In one case, some 40 paintings, American masterpieces among them, will be sold at auction.  In another, more than 400 photographs will also be sold.  The former case has prompted a nationwide outcry, the latter…effectively nothing.  The differences and similarities between the two underscore the aspirational rules that govern what is known as “deaccessioning,” but also remind us that principles and the goals they are meant to reach are not always the same thing. 

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Topics: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Delaware Museum of Art, American Alliance of Museums, Lee Rosenbaum, MoMA, Deaccessioning, AAM, Norman Rockwell, Association of Art Museum Directors, Alexander Calder, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, AAMD, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pittsfield, General Electric, Waconah Park, Berkshire Museum, Housatonic, Lake Onota, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Zenas Crane, Williamstown, Lenox, North Adams, Mass MoCA, Felix Salmon

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