The Barnes Foundation was not in a strained financial state when it petitioned to move to Philadelphia in 2002, and in fact, it had a cash surplus, according to a June 22, 2012 blog written by ex-Barnes Foundation CEO Kimberly Camp.
Camp, who became the CEO of the Barnes Foundation in 1998, oversaw the Barnes as it petitioned to move its $25 billion art collection from its original home in Merion to a new building in Philadelphia. The foundation was granted the right to relocate in late 2004. The new campus opened on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in May 2012.
Financial difficulties were considered to be a major reason for the necessity of the move. "We have no money," Camp testified before court on Dec. 10, 2003, according to a transcript provided by the anti-move group Friends of the Barnes.
But, Camp wrote on her blog last month, "Bankruptcy was not the reason we filed the petition to move the Foundation to the city. At the time the petition was filed, the Barnes Foundation had a cash surplus and we had no debt—none. But, saying so made the rescue so much more gallant."
"At the time the petition was filed, the Barnes Foundation had a cash surplus and we had no debt—none." -Kimberly Camp, former CEO of the Barnes Foundation, 2012
In her blog, Camp maintained that the Barnes' circumstances required its relocation. But, she wrote, "That circumstance was not bankruptcy."
"We Were Shocked"
This is the first time that Evelyn Yaari, of the anti-move group Friends of the Barnes, had heard someone publicly admit that financial distress was not a true reason for the foundation's move to Philadelphia—but it's something the Friends of the Barnes have known for years.
"The only surprising thing is that she wrote it on a blog," Yaari said. "The actual fact that it was not bankrupt has been known for some time: we’ve been saying for years that it was not bankruptcy. But Kimberly Camp, as the former president and CEO—as a person that testified at great length in court proceedings that it had no money, that it was broke—that is an entirely different matter."
"We were shocked," said Sam Stretton, attorney for Friends of the Barnes. "We filed [an appeal] as soon as we saw [the blog] because those statements were contrary to everything she had filed, particularly in key hearings in 2003 and 2004."
Stretton filed a petition on June 28 with the Superior Court "to sort out whether [Camp] presented false testimony, and if she did, to have some sort of remedy," Stretton said.
Camp told Philly.com on Monday that she did not lie: the media did.
"We never said we were 'bankrupt,'" Camp told Philly.com. "Newspapers did. I don’t lie. Not wired for it."
According to a transcript provided by Friends of the Barnes, on Dec. 10, 2003, Camp testified in court:
"Endowments are for organizations that are wealthy. We’re not wealthy. We don’t have any money. My goal is to raise money so I can pay the utility bill next month.”
We don’t have any money. My goal is to raise money so I can pay the utility bill next month. -Kimberly Camp, former CEO of the Barnes Foundation, Dec. 10, 2003
On the same day in 2003, Camp was also asked if the Foundation would consider buying part of the Episcopal Academy facilities that were up for sale at the time.
Camp responded "Absolutely not." When asked why, she responded, according to the transcript, "We don’t have any money."
Current Barnes board members have certainly not been shy about alluding to the foundation's financial woes.
“[It was] agreed that the Barnes Foundation could not go on as it was … basically the only change that could save the Barnes would be a recommitment to its mission … and to move its collection to a more accessible location,” Barnes Foundation Treasurer Stephen Harmelin said at a pre-opening press preview for the new Barnes on May 16.
"Would it have been cheaper to leave the collection in Merion? If you’d found the money, but there was no money," Barnes Foundation Executive Director Derek Gillman told Patch on May 16. "The money wasn’t there. I was watching the president trying to raise money and the restrictions [in the township] were such that the money couldn’t come."
When speaking with Patch, Gillman described his reaction to the state of the Barnes as it was in the early 2000s: "It was a bit like watching a plane come down and for us, it wasn’t a question of whether it would hit the ground, it was when it would hit the ground. One of my colleagues said it would have been one of the largest bankruptcies in American charitable history," Gillman said.
Gillman added that the foundation would have been bankrupt in much less than five years had it stayed in Merion.
If Not Bankruptcy, Then What?
Gillman and Camp both cited township regulations and neighborhood hostility as a major rationale for the move.
"The negativity from neighbors and former students was never about where the Barnes belonged. It was merely that it didn’t belong only to them. There was no greater example of hypocrisy than their constant harangue," Camp wrote in her blog.
"That is an absolute lie," Yaari responded, in an interview with Patch.
"If you read her claims, the only person to express hostility over and over again was Kimberly Camp herself," Yaari said. "She took every opportunity possible to assert that the neighbors were literally hostile to the presence of that institution on Latches Lane. ... [Yet,] no neighbors were put on the stand during the hearing to refute claims of hostility."
The pageantry—the claims of financial distress, even now, from the board, the claims that the neighborhood was hostile to the foundation—is like a scene from a play, Yaari said.
"They set up this scenery as an inhospitable, hostile environment and everyone from the Barnes Foundation read from same script, that described [the neighbors' hostility, the financial distress] as being permanent, but it was not. And we know for a fact that it was not."
In a hypothetical world, the Friends of the Barnes' appeal would result in a hearing. "They would go back and find she lied, reopen the record, and send the collection back to Lower Merion," Stretton said. "But that’s not going to happen in the real world."
Representatives from the Barnes Foundation were not immediately available for comment.
More Barnes news:
- Photos: Barnes On The Parkway (May 17, 2012)
- Merion's Barnes Foundation Grounds to Reopen in Late Summer (May 17, 2012)
- Poll: Should the Barnes Have Stayed in Merion? (May 16, 2012)
- Barnes Foundation Lawyer Found Dead (April 18, 2012)
- Barnes Move Opponents Ordered To Pay $40,000 (March 12, 2012)
- In Merion, Saying Goodbye to the Barnes (June 3, 2011)
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