Junto Staff Writer Bio
French President Nicolas Sarkozy? Word that Sarkozy has been been tapped as the keynote speaker for the inaugural opening of the new Barnes Foundation in 2012 was the hot rumor on the Avenue of the Arts, Parkway division, early this week. Well, why not?
What with $25-billion -- yes, billion -- worth of French-created, or inspired art by the likes of Mattisse, Renoir, Modigliani, Soutine, and others, a tip of the beret, recognizing the Barnes' move from suburban Lower Merion, to Center City sort of makes sense. Also, it makes things interesting.
Sure, building of new museum, at 21st Street, is apace. Even some of the foundation's administrative arm has moved downtown, now ensconced across the street from the construction site in the former home of the Philadelphia School District, now a multi-use facility.
And thanks to the Foundation's website, interested parties can also keep visually au courant with building progress. Yes, the foundation has installed a Parkway Webcam, updated every 15 minutes. It's something like watching water boil. Substitute water for a spade digging a hole.
There's more. Mix the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the foundation's arts guru Derek Gillman, and the irascible curmudgeon Dr. Albert Barnes, the late, great nemesis of the once-powerful Philadelphia Establishment and the good doctor's pet-peeve, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and, of course, you have the ongoing makings of the Barnes Foundation museum kabuki.
On the heels of The Art of the Steal, the anti-move crowd's cinemac screed against the foundation's neighborhood relocation, only, again, one word comes to mind: 'Boring.' Yawn.
Still, it's hard to side with self-selective protests. Breaking bequests isn't new to Philadelphia. Was anyone complaining when Stephen Girard's will creating his eponymous college for orphaned white boys was amended from its racist, sexist constraints? And were the New York critics howling when the Museum of Modern Art got a controversial redo a few years back?
Anyway, according to Bernard C. Watson, chairman of the Barnes Foundation board, it was actually the didactic Dr. Barnes himself, the fabulously rich inventor of a patent medicine, who provided in his will a loop-hole that allows the Barnes to move. It was the 'broke' clause. And, Watson said, the Barnes in Lower Merion was dead broke.