Art Law Report

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

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

Members of Berkshire Museum File Suit Seeking Injunction Against Sale of Art Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 26, 2017 at 11:52 AM

Forty Masterpieces of American and European Art Scheduled for Auction

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Topics: Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Zenas Crane, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Pieter de Hooch, Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop, Sotheby's

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

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The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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