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The Barnes Foundation

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 644
  • Category: Museum

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            The Barnes Foundation is one of the most impressive museums in Philadelphia.  It displays many of the works of the masters such as works by Paul Cézanne, George de Chirico, Paul Gauguin, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice Utrillo and Vincent Van Gogh.  It also has an art school.  The museum was constructed through the generous grant provided by Albert C. Barnes, who amassed his fortune from his development of the drug Argyrol.  Originally just a part of the art collection of Albert C. Barnes, the museum soon became a cultural institution due in part to the friendship that Barnes had with art merchants such as Paul Guillaume in the 1920s.

            The Barnes Foundation was never intended to be a museum but was initially planned to be a school.  Due to the influence that John Dewey had on Barnes, however, the plans were soon revised and with the help of Lawrence Buermeyer and Thomas Munro the plans for the museum and the school soon take shape.  Barnes ensured that even after his death the trust would be honored and the Foundation would still continue to receive financial support.  Some of the other financial sources of the Foundation include public admissions and tours of the collecting as well as touring exhibitions.

            The Barnes Foundation was also the subject of a certain controversy that began in 1992 when certain trustees claimed that extensive repairs and restorations were needed for the aging structure.  In order to begin these repairs, however, the terms of the indenture agreement had to be broken and soon after a selection of 83 French Impressionist paintings were exhibited on a world tour with the intention of applying the proceeds for the reconstruction project.

            Soon after, however, a number of financial irregularities were noticed and despite of the millions of dollars that were raised from the tour, the Barnes Foundation slowly began to decline.  A 1999 audit conducted by Deloitte Touche revealed that the financial situation had become so poor that the Foundation was nearing bankruptcy.  In response to this, the Foundation announced that it would request the Montgomery County Orphans’ Court, the foundation monitoring its operations, to disregard certain provisions of the indenture agreement originally drafted by Barnes.  The first provision with regard to the limitation on the number of board of trustee members to five members of which Lincoln University was granted authority to name four of the five members as per Dr. Albert C. Barnes will.

The second provision of the indenture agreement stipulated that the works in the collection can never be removed from the gallery in Lower Merion.  The reason for this, according to the Foundation, was that there was a need to increase the number of trustees in order to make fund-raising more effective and as such it would also be necessary to relocate the museum to a site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  After three (3) years, Judge Stanley Ott of the Montgomery County Orphans’ Court finally agreed to allow the Foundation to relocate to a new location.  It is speculated, however, the primary motivation for the approval was the grant provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Lenfest Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation to help the Barnes Foundation raise $150 million on the condition that the move be approved.

            As of march 6th 2007, the Barnes Foundation announced that qualification requests for architecture firms had been sent out.  The Barnes Foundation has also grown in size since the financial controversies that occurred earlier and now possesses over 2500 pieces among which are 180 paintings by Renoir, 69 by Cézannes, and 60 by Matisse, as well as numerous Old Masters and a variety of African artworks with a total value of over US$2 Billion.

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