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Activists Continue to Protest Berkshire Museum Art Sales

Critics of the Berkshire Museum’s controversial deaccessioning plan have not given up on the fight to save the institution’s artworks. Located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the museum first announced that it was going to auction off works to bolster its endowment and fund a renovation project in the summer of last year. Since then, the museum industry has been up in arms over the plan—it is considered unethical for an art institution to use the proceeds from the sale of artworks for anything other than acquisitions.

In order to rally support for their cause, the citizen group Save the Art–Save the Museum has paid for a billboard advertisement that reads: “No Transparency = No Trust” and “No More Sales.” It also features the hashtags #savetheart and #berkshiremuseumwatch. The text references an open letter the museum issued on May 31 that called for the public’s support despite the controversy and pledged to move forward “transparently, cooperatively, and thoughtfully” in order to regain its community’s trust.

Hope Davis, a member of the group, said that the activists decided to invest around $2,000 to keep the billboard, which can be found on Route 7 in Pittsfield, up through July. Commenting on the group’s correspondence with the museum, she told the Berkshire Eagle, “We have no more transparency despite the promise of it.” She also questioned how the institution plans to use the money it’s striving to fundraise—the state capped the amount it can net from sales at $55 million. “I think the community deserves answers,” Davis added.

The group’s action comes on the heels of the museum’s announcement that its executive director is stepping down. The institution is currently working to sell nine more artworks, seven of which will be sold in private transactions. The other two will be auctioned at Sotheby’s New York in September.