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.