Court hearing held on Berkshire Museum’s plans to sell artwork

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) – A lawsuit against the Berkshire Museum was the center of hours of arguments inside Berkshire Superior Court.

The plaintiffs and the attorney general’s office are asking the judge for a restraining order on the museums impending auctioned artwork.

The judge challenged attorneys for the plaintiffs on whether their clients have standing to sue the museum.

Passion erupted inside the courtroom  when the judge asked his final question explain what the museum board of trustees did wrong

“Why didn’t they [museum board of trustees] go and discuss this monumental decision with people like my clients. It’s because they [board of trustees] knew that they didn’t want to face this – two lawsuits and an investigation by the attorney generals office,” Attorney Michael Keating said.

Keating represents several plaintiffs including three of Norman Rockwell sons who are suing the Berkshire Museum.

He says the museum’s board of trustees should have told the public that the price tag of their new vision was the sale of 40 of their most prominent artwork before they signed a contract with Sotheby’s Auction House.

“I think that we a gross breach of their fiduciary duties,” Keating said.

After hours of arguments, Judge John Agostini will have to make the decision on whether or not to put a restraining order on the museum’s upcoming auction.

Museum trustees say the sale is the only option to keep the museum from closing its doors.

“Every decision we’ve made is about doing what’s best for the museum. Making sure it stays open for generation to come,” Ethan Klepetar, Vice President Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees, said.

The community remains divided and some are afraid of the consequences the museum will face from other institutions. Others are afraid of losing invaluable artwork, some of which was meant to stay in Pittsfield.

“It will not ever be seen again. There is no public institution that can afford this art. It will go into a vault,” Carol Diehl, of Housatonic, Mass., said.

The judge has not said when he will make the final decision.

As it stands, the museum’s auction is scheduled for November 13.

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