Lucas Got Bargain Price for "Shuffleton's Barbershop"

With the results of the Berkshire Museum's controversial auction sales in, ArtNews calculates that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art paid no more than "around $29.3 million" for Norman Rockwell's Shuffleton's Barbershop (1950) in a private sale. It could be less than that if Sotheby's gave the Berkshire part of the auction premiums (an "enhanced hammer").

That figure is well under the auction record for a Norman Rockwell painting, the $46 million (with buyer's premium) paid for Saying Grace (1951, upper left) in 2013. That painting also went to George Lucas.

In February I wrote that "if Lucas paid $46 million for Saying Grace, I can't imagine why he wouldn't pay a comparable sum at least for  Shuffleton's Barbershop." Rockwell's children called Shuffleton's their father's best work. The nod to Mondrian might be expected to reassure big-money buyers of Rockwell's status as a "real" artist. In contrast the earnestly pious theme of Saying Grace might have limited the pool of buyers. Shuffleton's is a few inches bigger (46 x 43 in.) than Saying Grace.

It seems the Lucas got a bargain—as did the auction buyers in this almost universally condemned sale. Because the realized prices were so low ($42 million v. the planned $55 million), the Berkshire has court approval to sell yet more works.