A museum in Western Massachusettts has found itself as the focus of a recurrent discussion in the art world: Is it ever okay for a museum to sell some of its works for financial reasons?

For Van Shields, executive director of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, the answer is a firm yes.

In a press release, the museum outlined a funding strategy for a “reinvention plan” in which it has “a heightened emphasis on science and history as well as the arts.” The museum wants to raise $60 million to carry out its new vision: $40 million to add to its endowment, and $20 million to renovate its building.

It plans to raise those funds by selling 40 works from the museum’s collection, pieces which have been deemed “no longer essential to the Museum’s new interdisciplinary programs.” Among the art earmarked for sale are works by Norman Rockwell, Alexander Calder, Albert Bierstadt, and George Henry Durrie. The museum plans to sell the works at a Sotheby’s auction, and expects to net $50 million. All of the works to be sold are “unrestricted and unencumbered,” the museum says.

“The process undertaken by the Museum to reach this point has been thoughtful and thorough, marked by intense community engagement and involvement,” said Shields in a statement. “The vision for how the Museum can best serve Pittsfield and the Berkshires is a reflection of the wishes of the community that surrounds us. By aligning our vision to community needs today, we will ensure the Museum continues its century-long track record of success as a vital cultural and educational resource for Pittsfield and Berkshire County.” read more