PITTSFIELD – The citizens’ group who fought unsuccessfully to block sales of the Berkshire Museum will be praised this month in Boston for their efforts “to protect important art treasures.”
Save the Art-Save the Museum will be one of six individuals or groups honored as “Champion of Artists” by the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition.
The coalition is lobbying on behalf of artists and the state’s creative economy. This is the third year he has presented awards at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Statehouse.
The November 14 recognition will come two days before the last paintings on sale by the Pittsfield Museum are put up for auction in New York with reduced auction estimates.
Hope Davis, a member of Save the Art, said the prize could help raise awareness of sales of the Pittsfield Museum’s works, including two paintings by Norman Rockwell, which are expected to fetch at least $ 55 million.
“I hope this gets the right attention. That’s what’s important going forward,” Davis said of the award. “The more we can make it into an uplifting story, the better.”
The coalition said that in opposing the sales, the members of Save the Art acted “to defend the protection of all artists’ rights in regards to their inheritance wishes, from the donation of works to their collection institutions designated for the protection of works held in the public confidence by art. museums. We all owe them a big thank you. “
Norman Rockwell’s family members filed a lawsuit last fall to block sales of their relative’s paintings, claiming the artist intended the pieces he donated to the museum to remain in Pittsfield .
But this costume failed. If two remaining paintings are sold at Sotheby’s “American Art” auction on November 16, the museum will have removed and sold 22 works with the support of Attorney General Maura Healey and the Suffolk County Supreme Court.
The museum plans to use the proceeds to amortize its operations from what it says are recurring budget deficits of more than $ 1 million per year. It is also expected to invest in repairs and renovations to its facility at 39 South Street.
Today, Davis said, Save the Art members are looking for ways to protect collections elsewhere.
“We want to force lawmakers to create laws that fill these loopholes. Something that does not allow what was allowed here,” she said.
While the museum’s actions have been sanctioned by the highest court in the state, selling items from an art collection to raise funds for operations is considered an ethical violation by the field. The sales of the Berkshire Museum drew reprimands from the museum’s business groups.
Davis said Save the Art has 30 core members and has used social media to connect with 1,500 supporters over the past year.
In addition to sharing information, the group held rallies in Pittsfield, Boston and New York, sponsored a billboard on Route 7 this summer to challenge museum practices, and helped raise funds for offset legal costs.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and I’m not someone who’s done something like that,” Davis said. “We’re actually a community. We’re really united in our feelings about it. We come from so different backgrounds, but we’re all connected.”
In addition to pushing for legislation, Save the Art members plan to archive their research over the past year on the practice of surrender, as the process of removing works from a collection is known. They plan to make their findings available to communities who wish to challenge art sales.
“We have so much to offer in this,” Davis said of the group’s research.
A recent post on the Save the Art Facebook page came from member Linda Cleary.
“We didn’t let it go without a fight… with everyone doing what they could and that’s the real community,” Cleary wrote.
In the meantime, the works of the museum make up lots 45 and 49 of the auction on November 16.
Both now carry lower bid ranges than Sotheby’s estimated for sales in November 2017. Those sales were canceled after Healey’s office obtained an injunction.
The first museum to be auctioned on that day will be George Henry Durrie’s “Hunter in Winter Wood”, an 1860 oil on canvas donated to the museum in 1947 by the W. Murray Crane family.
The table’s auction range is $ 300,000 to $ 500,000, down from last year’s spread of $ 400,000 to $ 500,000.
In its description online, Sotheby’s quotes author Martha Hutson, who wrote in 1977 that it was the artist’s largest painting. “Durrie’s pride in this photo is immediately seen in his unusually visible signature,” Hutson wrote. “The view is wide, the subject matter noble, the canvas wide, and the technique fine with a high technical polish. Durrie’s paintings stand out from the mainstream of mid-century American landscape painting, not only by their choice of season. , but also by their personal idiosyncrasies of style. “
Lot 49 from the auction will evoke “The Last Arrow” by Thomas Moran, an 1867 oil on canvas donated to the museum in 1915 by its founder, Zenas Crane.
The new auction range is just over half of the expected value last year. “The Last Arrow” is now listed as likely to bring in deals in the range of $ 1.2 million to $ 1.8 million.
A year ago the range was $ 2-3 million.
Sotheby’s says in its catalog that “The Last Arrow” reveals Moran’s “virtuosity as a landscape painter and his technical genius” and then quotes a critic, Richard Lagegast, who wrote this of Moran in 1900: “He did never been a simple copyist, even of nature. Everything he does is directed by an imagination so poetic, and yet so clear and truthful that his work is more akin to creation than reproduction. “
The auction begins at noon at Sotheby’s Headquarters 1334 York Ave. in Manhattan.
The ceremony on November 14 in honor of Save the Art is open to the public. It starts at 10:30 a.m. in the Great Hall of the Statehouse. The event is part of the coalition’s 12th Artists Under the Dome program.
The Pittsfield Group Prize is in memory of Chris Walsh, a former representative of the Democratic state of Framingham who died of cancer in May.
“Chris has strongly encouraged artists to organize themselves to advocate for issues that matter to them,” the coalition said in a statement. “The artists who founded Save the Art-Save the Museum did just that.”
Larry Parnass can be reached at [email protected], @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.