Judge Approves Art Sale to Save Massachusetts Museum

“Shuffleton’s Barbershop” by Norman Rockwell.

BOSTON (CN) – Norman Rockwell’s painting “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” will remain on public display but not at Massachusetts’ Berkshire Museum, after a state judge approved the sale of dozens of artworks from the financially troubled institution.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge David Lowy’s ruling Thursday means that the Berkshire Museum can sell up to 40 works of art for $55 million to keep the 115-year-old facility open.

The decision resolves a five-month dispute over the artworks. Under an agreement with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Rockwell’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” will be sold to another buyer after an auction at Sotheby’s.

Within 120 days of a sale, the buyer will loan the artwork to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., for up to two years.

The court encourages the buyer of the artwork to display it in a Massachusetts museum such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston or the Worcester Museum. The buyer must ultimately “display ‘Shuffelton’s Barbershop’ in a place of prominence within its museum,” and consider loaning it to museums across the world, according to the seven-page judgment.

There are no restrictions on the sale of the remaining 39 artworks.

Rockwell and his family moved to Stockbridge in the early 1950s, and he died in The Berkshires town in 1978 at age 84. His two sons fought the sale of the painting in a lawsuit but then dropped it when they learned the painting would remain in a museum.

Rockwell’s “Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop” is among the other paintings that the museum can sell without restrictions.

Attorney Michael Keating, who represented Rockwell’s sons, said he was disappointed by the court’s decision but noted that it urged the museum to sell the artworks to buyers who will allow the public to see them.

“We believe that our clients raised important questions concerning the museum’s decision to sell the art which are not only important to the citizens of Berkshire County but also to the art world in general,” Keating said in a statement. “Our clients hope that the museum has a successful future, considering the enormous cost the museum and the citizens of Berkshire County will incur by the sale of its art collection.”

Elizabeth McGraw, president of the Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees, welcomed the decision.

“This is great news for the people of Berkshire County and everyone who visits the Berkshire Museum,” McGraw said in a statement to the Berkshire Eagle.

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