Friends of the Barnes Foundation Won’t Appeal Ruling

A group of art students, alumni and neighbors of the Barnes Foundation have joined Montgomery County in deciding not to appeal a court decision denying them standing to oppose the move of the Barnes Foundation’s $6 billion art collection to Philadelphia.

Montgomery Common Pleas Court Judge Stanley R. Ott dismissed May 15 the county’s and the Friends group’s petition to re-open hearings in In re The Barnes Foundation, a Corporation because he said Pennsylvania case law did not give the county or the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, the citizens group, standing.

Ott’s 2004 ruling in the case allowed the Barnes Foundation to break Dr. Albert C. Barnes charitable bequest requiring his art collection to stay exactly as he had it hung at his Lower Merion Township property because of the foundation’s financial woes.

“We’re very glad that they did not appeal,” said Phyllis Beck, general counsel for the Barnes Foundation. “Judge Ott’s opinion was correct. It was very straightforward. It would have been … in my opinion, impossible to overturn.”

Beck said the Barnes Foundation will not be appealing Ott’s denial of their request to receive attorneys fees.

The Friends of the Barnes Foundation criticized Ott’s most recent ruling in a news release as turning “solely on narrow and technical question of legal standing” and failing to address the merits of their legal action.

“The judge’s failure to address the merits of the appeal leaves the Barnes Foundation, one of America’s great historic assets, under the continuous threat of destruction and raises issues of profound consequences of pubic trust throughout the commonwealth,” the release said.

In court papers, the county and the Friends group had wanted Ott to re-open the proceedings to consider a county funding proposal that might have made keeping the collection in Montgomery County affordable. They also wanted Ott to consider the import of their allegation that the foundation’s trustees concealed from the court during the original hearings over the Barnes move that a state budget bill signed into law in 2002 contained a line item dedicating $100 million to house Barnes collection in Philadelphia.

Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews and Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel said in news releases Monday they would like to negotiate with the Barnes Foundation to keep as much of the Barnes operations in Montgomery County as possible and share the collection between Lower Merion Township and Philadelphia.

Beck said that under the Barnes’ indenture all of the art collection must stay together when it’s moved to the new museum site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia and be hung in an exact replication of how the collection currently is arranged in Lower Merion Township.

However, she said, the foundation would love to cooperate with Montgomery County leaders on how the grounds and the use of the foundation’s art archives are developed.

“We’d like to move from litigation into the next phase, which would be constructive: constructing a museum, constructing a positive relationship with the neighbors and the government entities in Montgomery County and in Lower Merion,” Beck said.

— Amaris Elliott-Engel, staff reporter


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One Comment on “Friends of the Barnes Foundation Won’t Appeal Ruling”

  1. Sidney Gecker Says:

    Ms. Beck is abysmally wrong in stating that Barnes in his indenture stated that all the paintings must stay together when the collection is moved to the new museum site.
    Barnes never stated any such thing. However, he did state in the indenture that the art must never be moved from the gallery in Merion. If Ms. Beck is concerned with adhering to Dr. Barnes’ wishes, she is working on the wrong side.

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