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Berkshire Museum Declines $1 Million Gift from Anonymous Donors

An assortment of unnamed donors offered to give $1 million to the struggling Berkshire Museum in order to stop it from auctioning off forty works from its collection so that the institution could pay for a major refurbishment and make itself financially stable, writes Helen Stolias of the Art Newspaper. The museum’s board of trustees turned down the money, however, as the donors stipulated that the sale must be paused for at least a year if the Berkshire were to accept their gift. The donors hoped that in taking the money, the museum would’ve pulled together an external committee to review its finances and come up with another solution to raise funds.

In July, the museum faced an uproar when it announced its decision to sell off some of its works—including a pair of Norman Rockwell paintings—so that it could pay for a $20 million renovation and $40 million endowment. The auction, which is happening through Sotheby’s New York either sometime this year or in early 2018, is expected to bring in at least $50 million.

Elizabeth McGraw, the president of the museum’s board of trustees, said that it had done everything it could for the last two years to avoid auctioning off part of its collection, as per a letter addressed to the local community on the museum’s website. The Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based institution even looked into a merger with the Hancock Shaker Village nearby. “Some individuals are frustrated because they think that a pause in the sale would lead to a different financial path somehow changing this harsh reality,” she says in the statement. “However, the consequence of a delay with the auction could be that the museum may close even sooner.”