The Berkshire Museum, yes. They were going to sell 40 paintings at Sotheby’s, including two very special Norman Rockwells, but at the last minute a court decision halted the sale, claiming (with only thin justification) that the sale would violate the museum’s trusts. That is the setting of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:
The sad truth is that the people running the Berkshire Museum just don’t care that much about American art any more, at least not from an institutional point of view. Given that reality, it’s actually better if they are not entrusted with important artworks.
The court’s decision now means it will be hard to pull off the sale with fully clear rights to the titles, although the court’s judgment will be re-examined in December. Both the uncertainty and the surrounding negative publicity will scare off buyers and may spoil the market for a long time to come.
There is much more at the link. The argument against selling, of course, is that in a world of frequent sales all museums will find it hard to make credibly binding commitments to their donors, who often do not want their donated works recycled in the marketplace. But the equilibrium of zero selling is one that will destroy a great deal of value in the art world. Note that this problem will become increasingly relevant as the clock ticks and the number and inappropriateness of past museum commitments piles up. If nothing else, sooner or later insolvency sets in. Rust never sleeps. And so on.
Should churches really own all that land in the downturns of major American cities?