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Moving the Barnes Foundation’s Art Collection:
Withering Criticism From Around the Country


“…the snatch-and grab solution of relocating the collection to Philadelphia is no solution at all.  It isn’t salvation.  It isn’t even euthanasia.  It’s death by disembowelment.”

Richard Lacayo, TIME’s blog, Looking Around


“There are few places in the United States where art and viewer share a closer bond than the beloved old Barnes in suburban Merion, PA.  Dismantling it is a crime.”

Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times

Altering so much as a molecule of one of the greatest art installations I have ever seen would be an aesthetic crime…. The Barnes is a work of art in itself, more than the sum of its fabulous parts….  If there were other places like the Barnes, dispensing with it would not be tragic.  But one minus one is zero.

Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker


It can move but it won’t be the Barnes anymore.  Ripped from its context, it will be just another ‘attraction’ on Philadelphia’s cultural midway.  Thus passes the glory of the world.  The Barnes will surrender its ineffable genius loci and the atmosphere of seclusion and contemplation that characterizes the art and horticultural school created by Albert C. Barnes.  It will no longer be a refuge from art-world commercialization, but an intrinsic part of it.-

Edward J. Sozanski, art critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer


As with Penn Station four decades ago, so with the Barnes Foundation today.  Fifteen or 20 years down the road, people will look back on what was lost and scratch their heads: What could Philadelphia have been thinking?...  In a deal that would warm the cockles of even the most heartless corporate raiders, an art collection worth billions of dollars has been snagged for just pennies on the dollar….  The Barnes Foundation is… important because of the enchanted stature of the Merion complex as a unique cultural monument.  Once that’s demolished, it cannot be willed back into being in a simulacrum on the Parkway.  –

Christopher Knight, art critic for The Los Angeles Times


The Barnes affair is one of the great scandals in American art museums, and it sets a disastrous precedent.  If a will isn’t sacrosanct under the law, what is?  The Fricks, Barneses and Carnegies of the future are going to think very carefully before donating their masterpieces to our institutions and to our future generations.  And that is a more dangerous situation than the public understands it to be.

Tom Freudenheim, The Smithsonian Institution, in The National Law Journal


It’s not too late to decide to celebrate Barnes instead of making an end run around him in the name of the public good.  If Philadelphia’s culture brokers can see past the move-it-or-lose-it fallacy, they might realize that they had an opportunity to preserve an unforgettable aesthetic experience…

Peter Linett, Curator, in The Wall Street Journal


What is happening here is an act of cultural vandalism…  In bringing their suit, the trustees showed no interest in exploring alternative means of getting visitors to the suburban site, such as a shuttle system of the kind successfully used by the Getty in Los Angeles…  Enter now the philanthropies. Like the project to build a new home for the collection on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, the trustees’ suit was underwritten by a consortium of philanthropic institutions led by the Pew Charitable Trust. Given that Barnes’s collection has been estimated to be worth about $25 billion, the $150 million amassed for the move can be regarded as one of the great garage sales of all time.

Barnes’s little reliquary of a museum—designed by Paul Cret, sculpted by Jacques Lipchitz, and painted by Henri Matisse—was designed for the objects it contains. It was, one might say, an installation piece, on a grand scale. Dismantled into its constituent parts and removed from its context, it will offer something far diminished—an instance of more people getting to see less.

No one would think the world better off if the paintings of Lascaux were taken from their lonely caves and installed in the Louvre, or if the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were dropped and brought closer to the eye. Or perhaps the Pew Trust would….

Michael J. Lewis, Commentary Magazine


If we know the facts, we will recognize this as an injustice and complete lack of respect for Dr. and Mrs. Barnes, for the artists like Henri Matisse, who said that his mural “La Danse” is “part of the building,” for history, and for all the people who would be deprived of the exquisite experience of the Barnes – the original Barnes, the only Barnes.

Carmelle Yaari, The Merionite


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