Court Blocks Berkshire Museum’s Sale of Rockwell Works and Other Art

The injunction will expire on Dec. 11, but the court added that the attorney general’s office may move to extend it.

Sotheby’s had described the Berkshire Museum works as a “superb collection” that was “among the highlights” of its American Art sale this month.

In addition to “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” which Sotheby’s said Rockwell created for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1950, the auction was to include Rockwell’s “Blacksmith’s Boy — Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop),” which was estimated to have a price of $7 million to $10 million.

Among other museum works to be offered on Monday were “The White Dress” by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, “Hunter in Winter Wood” by George Henry Durrie and “Connecticut River Valley, Claremont, New Hampshire” by Albert Bierstadt.

Last summer, the financially strapped museum announced the planned sale of 40 works, including Impressionist and modern art, contemporary art, 19th-century European paintings, American art and Chinese art. The museum said the proceeds were needed to build its endowment, renovate its building and expand programming to create a “heightened emphasis on science and history.”

Museum organizations condemned the plan, saying it violated guidelines against the sale of art to subsidize operating and other expenses instead of using such proceeds to enhance or maintain a collection.

Rockwell’s sons and a group of museum members sued separately to stop the sale. But Judge John A. Agostini of Berkshire Superior Court found that they lacked legal standing. Judge Agostini also denied a request by the attorney general to block the sale.

The state’s lawyers told the appeals court on Friday that the museum was looking to sell nearly all of its valuable art. Doing so would violate a number of trusts, they said, including what they described as a promise to Rockwell that his works would remain in the permanent collection…

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