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Poll: Should The Barnes Have Stayed In Merion?

On Saturday, the Barnes Museum opens to the public at its new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

After nearly 90 years in Merion Station, Albert Barnes' world-renowned art collection has made its controversial move to Philadelphia, and will be unveiled to the public in its new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday.

The collection—which includes works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Soutine, Modigliani and Degas, along with some lesser known artists—is estimated to be worth $25 billion.

Collector Dr. Albert Barnes created the Barnes Foundation in 1922 as an educational institution, with the philosophy of making art accessible to ordinary people. He requested that his collection never be moved or even rearranged.

The Barnes, of course, has moved—and it will be unveiled to the public on Saturday, May 19 in a new, $150 million home, six miles away, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

The Foundation's View

At a pre-opening press preview on Wednesday, Barnes Foundation Executive Director and President Derek Gillman said that while it may seem like the collection's move was in direct opposition to Barnes' wishes as laid out in the Foundation's Indenture of Trust, he believes the move is honoring to Barnes' legacy and his intentions.  

"It seems clear that when he says [the collection must be kept in] 'exactly the same place,' it means, 'I put the Cezanne here, I didn't put it in that gallery, and I didn't put it in that gallery.' ... It's the relationship between the works ... the arrangement" Gillman told Patch in an interview on Wednesday. "There's nothing in that document which suggested he's talking about [the collection staying in] Merion."

The move to the Parkway will also bring Barnes' collection to more people: an estimated 250 million people per year, four times the number of people who accessed the gallery annually in Merion. That level of accessibility, Gillman said, is in line with Barnes' wishes.

The Other Side

Outside the Barnes' new home on Wednesday were several members of the Friends of the Barnes, a group that has fought in court to keep Barnes' collection in Merion, maintaining that Barnes never wanted his collection moved. Several members held banners, one of which said "So sorry, Dr. Barnes."

Evelyn Yaari, a Friends of the Barnes member, told Patch that the group knew it was a distinct possibility that their efforts would not stop the Barnes move, because the balance of power was not in their favor.

"Some people say that what we did was completely hopeless—but they add, 'It still mattered.' And I know that all of us are really proud of what we have brought to the conversation and public awareness around this American cultural tragedy," Yaari said.

The 2009 film The Art of the Steal chronicles the legal battle to move the Barnes, and maintains that the collection should have stayed in Merion.

Should The Barnes Have Stayed In Merion?

We want to know what you think: Should the Barnes collection have stayed in Merion, or is the move to Philadelphia more honoring to Barnes' legacy and intentions? Vote in the poll below, and give us your reactions in the comments.

Check back Thursday for more from Wednesday's pre-opening press preview, including a photo gallery, remarks from the Barnes Foundation board, and plans for the in Merion.

Lucy Bennett (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Do you think the decision to break the trust and move the collection will influence other collectors who may have been planning similar things in their wills? Do you intend to go see the new home for the Barnes collection?
Ronnie Lazarus May 17, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I drove from Massachusetts, two years ago, to see the collection in Marion. They had already started to dismantle it. I had read of this travesty and wanted to see this collection in it's home, where Dr. Barnes wanted it, saw it, himself, loved it and shared it with students of art. I will not go and see it where it is. I will always remember, fondly, where I saw it. Such a travesty.
kim May 17, 2012 at 01:21 PM
It takes millions of dollars to keep art at this level safe, secure for all to see for generations. For those who think this is a travesty, how would you feel if this art was sold at auction to the highest bidders because the Trust was so mishandled that the Barnes was broke? By moving this collection it can stay in tact for generations for all to see as oppossed to being broken up and placed in the hands and homes of only the very wealthy. It was the best option to keep this in tact. It needed to move out of sleepy LM so that it can be saved for all. Based on who has joined the Barnes on an international basis to fund the endowment shows it will be successful so that generations for years will be able to see this awesome collection.
MerionManor May 17, 2012 at 02:30 PM
It belongs where Dr. Barnes wanted it, I live in Havertown and use to frequent the Barnes maybe yearly, I will never go again, as it would infuriate me too much. It's just like everything else in the world today, how can we make more of the almightily dollar even if it means disregarding Dr. Barnes wishes. The way the employee of the museum tries to extort and tangle the words of Dr. Barnes saying he was referring to the collection remaining in the same order, is a joke. This person insults their own intelligence and the readers by making such a false statement. A four year old could tell you that's not what he meant!
Joanne Murray May 17, 2012 at 03:06 PM
The money they spent to build the hideous and not needed new building and to move everything could have been used to preserve the collection exactly where it was. The money the foundations spent on legal bills to make this happen could have been used to help the Barnes. Plain and simple Barnes angered most of not all of the local rich people in his lifetime and the bullies with nothing else to do with their money got their petty revenge.
debsfl May 17, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Yes the neighbors complained, they also blocked requests to expand parking or improve access but they didn't realize the jewel they were living next to until it was far too late. Dr. Barnes assembled the collection, where and how he wanted it displayed and his last wishes were stomped to death. I agee with another comment, if the issue was EVER about security and the high cost of maintaining this unbelievable collection these politicians and fat-cat organizations could have put their fund raising efforts into its preservation at the original location. What happened here is a tragedy and travesty. You people who say you ",,,love the new location" should be ashamed, almost but not quite as ashamed as those who participated in the theft of the collection. Yes and btw, if someones last wishes are not worth the paper they're written on, then why would anyone bother to have them drawn up?
horseshoe May 17, 2012 at 08:36 PM
And when your deed of trust falls into the hands of your great grandchildrens' detractors - call the Barnes Foundation - they're experts.
horseshoe May 17, 2012 at 08:41 PM
You're believing the well-manipulated press. Glanton et al spun the neighbor situation to their advantage, whereas many neighbors signed on with Save the Barnes early on. Remove rose colored glasses and place under paoli local please.
Gerry Wright May 17, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Imagine moving all the art out of the Louvre in Paris. That's what happened.
Bill Ternay May 18, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Kim, like so very many, your naive comments reflect the the ongoing campaign of misinformation spewed out by the Barnes and the Philadelphia power-brokers who, like the culture vultures they are, have financially (and greedily) enabled the move.
Bill Ternay May 18, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Dear hubris, Too bad you based your comments on your faulty and oh-so-misinformed memory. Next time I suggest you do just a bit more sincere research. And sadly; there will be a "next time."
Bill Ternay May 18, 2012 at 02:13 PM
And imagine moving Monet's gardens closer to Paris, just so more tourists could see it. Talk about killing the Golden Goose.

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