Berkshire Museum Art Goes to Auction

Ruth Osborne

After we’d covered in detail the case of the Berkshire Museum deaccession crisis and court case, it only seemed fitting that we saw their 40 works of art off yesterday and today at auction at Sotheby’s in New York. According to reports over the past year, the Museum needs about $2 mil for its debt, about $6 mil to improve its building facilities, and an additional $23 mil in permanent endowments.

As it turns out, several major works at the first two sales dipped just below the hoped-for price:

Alexander Calder’s Double Arc and Sphere kinetic sculpture, estimated at $2-3 mil, went for $1.215 mil

William Bouguereau’s L’agneau nouveau-né (The Newborn Lamb), estimated at $1.5-2 mil, went for $975,000
Bougnereau’s La Bourrique(The Pony-Back Ride), estimated at $2-3 mil, went for $1.755 mil
Charles-François Daubigny’s Paysans Allant Aux Champs (Le Matin), estimated at $70-100,000, went for $68,750.000
Rockwell’s Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop went for $8.13 mil despite aiming for up to $10 mil in the pre-sale estimate and the sale being highly anticipated.

And the auctioneer was really pushing for Valley of Santa Isabel by luminist painter Frederick Edwin Church to at least reach the bottom of its estimated $5-7 mil. But it ended up going for only $4.25 mil.

2018-05-23 - Berkshire-Museum-Sothebys-Frederick-Edwin-Church

Frederic Edwin Church, Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada, 1875. Courtesy: Sotheby’s New York.


We’ll see what this ends up meaning for the Berkshire’s refilling of their coffers as the rest of the pieces sell. Perhaps this and recent underwhelming deaccession sales will remove a bit of the shiny promise of this approach en masse for other collections in trouble?

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