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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.

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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