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Foes of art sale see dim future for Berkshire Museum

Scrapping core of its collection would be death knell for Berkshire Museum

Your Nov. 26 editorial “Change or die: Choice is clear for Berkshire Museum” presents a false choice. The decision to eviscerate the core of the Berkshire Museum’s collection is counterproductive and will result in the museum’s ruin, not its resurrection.

Given the excellent reporting by the Globe thus far, including the disputed extent of the museum’s financial troubles, it was disappointing to read an editorial that accepts these assertions and waves off the specific restrictions on the artworks. The museum community is unanimous in its condemnation of this decision because there is no limiting principle to apply to the next museum claiming financial hardship, or the next. In addition, there is no mention in the editorial of what remains a primary point of contention for so many in Berkshire County: the complete lack of transparency that accompanied the announcement.


It is ironic that the Globe got it right in a Jan. 30, 2009, editorial about Brandeis’s “ill-considered” decision then to sell the art at the Rose Art Museum. The editorial recognized the “diminishing reputation among art lovers, philanthropists, and many students, faculty, and staff” that would follow.

Massachusetts’ cultural leadership is at stake. Failure cannot be an option.

Nicholas M. O’Donnell

The writer represents the plaintiffs who are seeking to prevent the sale of the Berkshire Museum artworks.

Driven by a false sense of practicality

I was disappointed by the stance the Globe took in its editorial supporting the attempt by the Berkshire Museum to sell its best-known paintings to pay for an expansion. The proposed sale has been widely condemned in the art world because it is a violation of professional ethics. It’s not just that “many museums,” in the editorial’s words, consider it to be so — it actually is.

Usually when people are pushing an idea they know may be bad, they take refuge in a false sense of practicality, as this editorial does. However, this sale is also a bad idea from a practical point of view — who will donate works of art, or money, for that matter, to an institution that has shown itself to be so capricious?


The trustees of the Berkshire Museum are wrong to consider this sale, and the attorney general is right to try to block it. Art museums hold their collections in trust and owe their public a duty of care. They can’t bail out poor management in the past on the backs of their donors.

Tim Shaw