Berkshire Museum art case: Mass Supreme Court Justice Lowy allows third amicus brief

Amy Stewart, Second Assistant Clerk for the ‎Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk, confirms that Justice Lowy has allowed a third Amici Curiae filed by Martin Gammon related to the Berkshire Museum case. Gammon has a new book coming out “Deaccessioning and its Discontents: A Critical History,” (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018). He has long art world experience, and is an antiques roadshow appraiser and a former director of Museum Services at Bonhams auction house. Although he is opposed to the current deaccession agreement reached by the Attorney General and the Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, and backs off from the panic, Gammon articulates some sell-off, specifically:

“Consequently, if the court were to warrant a limited sale of the European and non-Western works, and that in turn proves to be insufficient for supporting operations in the course of time, then the trustees could then petition the court and consider some of the core American works for potential sale, but then they should be offered in a collaborative process through the auspices of the AAMD to other public institutions first, as the likelihood of another museum willing to acquire them is high, and they would in most cases remain in the public trust.”

Gammon underscores the irregularity of any deaccession planning with no curators on staff as is the case with the Berkshire Museum. One of the paintings Gammon muses a curator may have considered selling was the now infamous cover lot yanked back on the eve of the Sotheby’s November 21, 2017 sale: LOT 18 L’Agneau Nouveau (The Newborn Lamb), oil on canvas, presale estimate 1.5 to 2 million)

x Bouguereau LOT 18 Berkshire Museum Bouguereau featured on the cover of the Sotheby's catalogue 70 lots Nov 21 sale L'Agneau Nouveau-Ne THE NEWBORN LAMB oc 65 x 34 est 1500000 to 2mil

A poignant counter perspective was expressed in a Letter to the Editor on March 13, 2018: Crane gifts to museum would be painful loss, (aka “beyond the Rockwells) by David Peter Moser, a former resident of Pittsfield who benefited from amazing enrichment programs developed between the museum and community organizations

To the editor:
I am saddened by the potential loss of Berkshire County’s cultural assets, those being the gifts Zenas Crane made during his lifetime to his Berkshire Museum. Often overlooked in the press are those gifts associated with former Massachusetts governor and senator Winthrop Murray Crane, subject to being deaccessioned for cash. Governor (1900-1903) and senator (1904-1913), Winthrop Murray Crane and his family also donated works that are among the 40 to be sold, acquired over the last century as his heirs wanted to honor their direct ancestors and the mission of the Berkshire Museum. A native son of Dalton, both businessman and statesman, Winthrop Murray Crane is equally revered as part of this area’s proud heritage. Sen. Crane’s wife, Josephine Boardman Crane, and daughter, Louise Crane, gave art treasures either directly or through their nonprofit foundations. Louise Crane had no descendants.

Works include: William-Adolph Bouguereau’s “La Bourrique/The Horseback Ride;” Girolamo Troppa’s “Apollo and Satyr;” Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s “Two Ladies in a Drawing Room/The White Dress;” George Henry Durrie’s “Hunter in Winter Wood;” Adriaen Isenbrandt’s “Adam and Eve/The Temptation;” Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ “Diana of the Tower; ” Henry Moore’s “Three Seated Figures;” Edward Vuillard’s “Deux femmes dans un interieur;” and Edwin Lord Weeks’ “Indian Prince, Palace of Agra.”

The Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation, now located in Falmouth., has assets of over $70 million and gave $500,000 during the 2007 Berkshire Museum Capital Campaign. Attempts to reach out to the Winthrop Murray Crane ancestors regarding their feeling towards the Berkshire Museum’s intended renovation plans and deaccessioned artworks have gone unanswered.

As an aside, I thank Josephine Boardman Crane for also establishing the Junior Naturalist Program at the Berkshire Museum, which was an important part of my childhood learning experiences growing up in Pittsfield during the 1970s with Woody Bousquet and Thom Smith. My experiences, enhanced by visits to the Berkshire Museum as well as later hiking excursions through the hills of the Catskills and Berkshires with Woody, compelled me to study art history in college at Tufts University. Memories of the paintings by Hudson River School artists’ depictions of our beloved mountain ranges remain clear. Science, nature, history and art interconnected through paintings — treasures “once” known at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.“- David Peter Moser

Moser was compelled to detail the strong accession stories and local community support for the Berkshire Museum 39– the works of art off the beaten press path. Justice Lowy asked about them, too.

Gammon filed one day ahead of the March 20th public hearing where parties and amici presented oral arguments. Although Gammon will not have an opportunity to present oral argument,  Justice Lowy will read and consider this file along with all the other documents. No further information is available at this time.

AMY STEWART FANTASTIC Boston MA John Adams Courthouse -Berkshire Museum deaccession case oral arguments before SJO Justice Judge Lowy_Mar 20 2018 _102144 © catherine ryan (17).jpg

03/28/2018      #24   Notice to counsel/parties regarding paper #18 file

MOTION For Leave To File A Brief Of Amicus Curiae filed by Martin Gammon. (No Certificate of Service included). (3/27/18: “Per the within, Motion is ALLOWED WITHOUT HEARING” (Lowy, J.))