May 29, 2018

New sanctions against the Berkshire Museum severely restrict loans of art to the museum.

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) announced Friday that it has voted to sanction the Berkshire Museum over the Massachusetts institution’s controversial sale of artwork from its collection, which the museum claimed was necessary to fix budget issues and fund renovations. The deaccessioning of some 40 works of the collection was allowed to proceed after a settlement with the state's Attorney General that required the deaccessioning to halt after its proceeds reached $55 million. So far, 13 works brought in $42 million at Sotheby’s earlier this month.
But the settlement still flaunts industry guidelines that prohibit the sale of artwork except to purchase other artwork, so the AAMD moved forward with its response. Under the sanctions, which are effective immediately, the AAMD has requested its 243 members “refrain” from loaning work to the Berkshire Museum, and also not collaborate with the space on exhibitions, the New York Times reported. The board also voted to sanction Philadelphia’s La Salle University Museum, which recently sold artwork for a similar purpose.
The impact of the sanctions is debatable. Part of the reason the Berkshire Museum sold its artwork was to pivot in its focus away from fine art, and the works themselves have already hit the auction block. But the sanctions send the clear message that the AAMD does not grant exceptions to its rules, as in 2014, the industry group sanctioned the Delaware Art Museum for selling art to plug budget shortfalls.