Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who's Stealing Who?

If you don't know what the Barnes Museum is, you've probably heard about the litigated sideshow that led to its anticipated relocation.

In short, here's what happened:

Rich guy had a lot of art. Rich guy put the art in a big house. Rich guy died. Rich guy's will said the art couldn't move.

Simple, right?

Well the will that didn't account for inflation, allow the museum to profit, or predict that the internet would be a better investment than railroads. So there we were. A big house was full of priceless art that no one could see.

Whether or not you agree with the legal outcome allowing the art to be moved to a new museum on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the hearing is over. But on the Main Line, wealth and old money don't like to take "no" for an answer and have little sympathy for the cash strapped burdens of its neighbors to the east.

Although tax payers invested millions in a new museum under the court ordered decision that the art be moved, the Friends of the Barnes Foundation are back in court, and its costing us money.

You don't have to be an art buff for this to piss you off.

The Barnes collection is astounding. With more Cezannes than Paris, people should be fighting over this. But the fight should be over.

What these activists fail to recognize is the threshold of Barnes' will. Long-term wills often come with an expiration date. I could put a billion dollars in a trust, freeze my head, and ask to be reanimated in 2000 years, but technology and money don't guarantee anything.

Under the governance of Barnes' will, the museum is not sustainable in its current location. Even with grants and donations, following the technicalities of a decades old and hastily drawn will, eventually this art would find itself locked away in an abandoned mansion.

1 comment:

  1. What you didn't say is that the number of visitors are strictly limited on the Main Line, with the neighbors monitoring zealously to make sure limits aren't exceeded. So even if it were somehow possible to operate a major museum in that location, which it isn't, it wouldn't be possible for people to see it. Demanding that the Barnes stay there is rank elitism, the attitude of art world people who can go there when the rest of the world is working.