June 2003
Barnes Watch

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Barnes Financial Crisis: Reality vs. Myth

No more deplorable superstition could be found [than] the current belief that no one should be subjected to searching criticism if his intentions are good. . . . To refrain from bringing to light the harm done by well-intentioned persons is to resign one’s self to futility.

Albert C. Barnes, Journal of the Barnes Foundation, Oct. 1925.  

The Barnes Foundation’s court petition to move the art collection to a new full-time museum in Philadelphia is based on the premise that the Foundation’s mounting debt is a given and that there is no other way to solve the problem. The reality is that the Foundation’s reported annual expenses of $4.5 million are four times the 1990 budget, which was the last time the Foundation was truly in the black on a regular basis. No one in the press has critically examined how the Foundation got into this situation or whether it is reversible. Nor has the press taken a critical approach to director Kimberly Camp’s spending practices. According to tax returns through 2001, she hiked the Foundation’s staff-related expenses each year since she started in late 1998, but has yet to secure regular income to pay for the hugely overblown staff. She is lauded as bringing "professionalism" to the Barnes Foundation, while missing artwork was reported to police a month late, grant applications go out rife with grammatical errors and guards appear more idle than attentive on public visiting days.

The Inquirer recently reported that "under director Kimberly Camp the Barnes is gradually moving away from the threat of insolvency. . . . Professional management has invigorated the Barnes over the last four years." The more this story is repeated, the more people believe it; but the reality is that under Camp’s increasing spending, the Foundation’s losses have continued to mount. In the three full years of Camp’s tenure for which IRS reports are available, the Foundation ran the following deficits:

1999: ($1,376,831)
2000: ($834,436)
2001: ($855,940)

Indeed, Camp herself has admitted that "the Foundation lost a combined $1.36 million in 2000 and 2001 . . . and has used funds released from the termination of its pension plan to cover its losses."

Yet, the Inquirer celebrates Camp’s "professional management" stating that "since she arrived in Merion, Camp has reduced a [1998] deficit of $3.313 million [IRS forms show $3.204 million] to about $800,000 last year." Inquirer, 3/10/03. This positive-sounding story ignores several realities, including the unique financial circumstances facing the Foundation in 1998 and the stopgap measures, such as liquidating pension funds, that have been used to counter expenses in later years. The 1998 deficit was the highest ever and was clearly an aberration. For example, nearly $2 million of the 1998 deficit was due to legal fees in the civil rights suit begun under former president Richard Glanton The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed this suit as "frivolous," was responsible for shutting down this gaping fiscal artery, not Camp. Another $670,906 of the 1998 deficit was for "professional and consulting" fees. Presumably, a large part of this was a one-time forensic audit conducted on the Foundation’s dime in order to stave off an independent investigation by the attorney general. Camp’s admission in a September, 2002 court filing that "unrestricted expenses will exceed unrestricted income by more than $800,000 in 2002" makes it clear that rather than invigorating the Barnes Foundation, she has established a four-year pattern of spending that annually exceeded income by anywhere from $800,000 to $1.38 million. Indeed, an accounting firm’s assessment of the Foundation’s finances showed that "there is a likelihood of all cash reserves being expended by the conclusion of 2002." This, for an institution that ran in the black on $1.1 million a year in 1990. Rather than invigorating the Barnes Foundation, Camp has established a four-year pattern of deficit spending between $800,000 to $1.38 million per year.

The same laudatory Inquirer article states that under Camp "earned income has increased," but ignores how this happened and further ignores the fact that while income has increased, expenditure hikes have outpaced those increases. Program service revenue for the past four reported years was: 1998: $249,477; 1999 $431,132; 2000: $631,200 and 2001: $691,078. The significant increase from 1998 to 1999 is mainly because of two court decisions in 1998. The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board allowed an increase from 500 visitors per week to 1200 and the Orphans’ Court allowed the Foundation to admit visitors in July and August. Additional increases have come from charging drivers ten dollars to park in the on-site lot completed in 1999 and from tuition increases. Clearly, the bulk of the "earned income increases" have come not from crafty management but from structural changes that were in the works long before Camp arrived.

For a $170,000-per-year manager, who has a $72,000-per-year development director and myriad assistants, Camp has failed miserably at raising funds to support the operating costs of the Foundation, which, conversely, she has had no problem increasing each year. In November 2000, more than two years into her tenure, the Inquirer reported that "what [Camp] hasn’t done is raise a lot of money. . . . Apart from a $760,000 grant from the estate of former foundation leader Violette de Mazia and [a $500,000] Getty grant, the largest private gift has been $6,000 to pay for a new brochure." Inquirer, 11/19/00. In 2000 the Foundation ran a deficit of over $800,000. Did Camp cut back on costs? Hardly. In the next year the Foundation’s expenses increased by over 30%. An August 2002 Deliotte & Touche report stated the obvious: "fundraising efforts are not generating sufficient support to cover the expenses of ongoing operations."

The large grants that have come on Camp’s watch have, for the most part, not been in support of the Foundation’s original program of art education, but rather have been for non-essential museum-oriented endeavors. For example, the Inquirer reported grants for a "collection assessment project" of $1 million from the Pew Charitable Trusts, $1.05 million from the Mellon Foundation and $500,000 from the Luce Foundation. Another $500,000 came from the Getty trust but was reportedly tagged for "planning expenses." Indeed, the one major source of operational funding—the $760,000 grant by the Violette de Mazia Trust—is unlikely to be repeated as Camp has regularly maligned its founder since the grant.

Prior to the deal to sell out the Foundation to "big charity’s" plans for a full-time museum in Philadelphia, Camp maintained what could charitably be described as a wishful thinking approach to the Foundation’s future. In late 2000, after accumulating $2.2 million in excess spending over revenue, Camp’s response was "The money will come." Inquirer, 11/19/00. She must have believed herself, because in 2001 she spent over $900,000 more than in 2000, racking up an additional $850,000 in deficit. Camp, who believes she hears Dr. Barnes’ ghost (Inquirer, 11/19/00) must also believe in genies. The Inquirer’s Edward Sozanski got the point: "Camp says she still hopes that a financial ‘angel’ will materialize to stave off crisis. But a fairy godmother doesn’t seem likely." Inquirer, 3/10/03.

The Barnes Foundation does not need a fairy godmother, what it needs is a surgeon to trim excess fat. In 1995, then-president Richard Glanton testified that the Foundation’s operating budget for 1996 should be between $1.3 and $1.6 million. While even this estimate was high given Glanton’s larding up the staff costs, it’s a far cry from Camp’s 2000 statement that the budget should be $3 million. If the fiscally-sound 1990 budget of $1.1 million is adjusted for cost-of-living increases, the present budget should be about $1.6 million. One does not need a fairy godmother to realize that fiscal responsibility would result in a balanced budget given that the Foundation’s reliable income from "ticket sales, licensing fees and other income" has been reported at $1.7 million. Inquirer, 11/16/00.

Barnes Watch is not alone in this assessment. In late 2000, Robert Montgomery Scott, former president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and an advisor to the Barnes Foundation said "it would be better for the foundation to focus on its core missions—the art and education program—and exclude ideas of expansion until financial stability was achieved." Inquirer, 12/21/00.

Attorney General Mike Fisher: "Backing the Move" After Ignoring Six Years of Deficit Spending

The critical player in the Foundation’s bid to undo the rules in its Indenture of Trust that prevent movement of its collection and require gallery time exclusively for students is state Attorney General, Mike Fisher. Fisher’s responses to letters opposing this wholesale sell-out have come from his deputy, Lawrence Barth. "[W]e intend to consider every aspect of the Barnes Foundation’s request, including its financial condition, and limit our approval to those changes essential to its survival." (2/21/03, emphasis added).

On February 28, 2003 the Inquirer announced "Fisher backs a Barnes move, but voices caution." Backs the move? What happened to considering every aspect of the request? At that point no cursory, let alone searching, exam of the Foundation’s finances had taken place. Indeed, this was still months before the Orphans’ Court ordered the Foundation to release a detailed audit requested by Lincoln University, not Fisher. The same article states Fisher "does not oppose" the Foundation’s petition. Not opposing the petition is effectively backing it since Fisher’s office must do a thorough job of requesting documents, reviewing them and cross-examining witnesses, or the Foundation’s court case will be a virtual free ride, like the 2001 hearing on the so-called "works in storage." In that case, the Foundation was allowed to present hearsay upon hearsay with nary an objection from the attorney general’s deputy.

Incredibly, Fisher’s deputy wrote to another concerned individual "[t]his is not a case of ignoring or "breaking" a man’s will, but rather of insuring that the institution he created continues to exist for the benefit of the public." When the Barnes Indenture says no painting shall ever be moved and the attorney general "does not oppose" the elimination of this term, how is that anything but "ignoring or breaking a man’s will?" Worse yet, Fisher and Barth have ignored the gross run-up of expenses and deficit spending including $4.2 million in legal fees between 1997 and 2001 and $8.3 million in total deficit spending for the same period, while the Foundation hired numerous employees and built a lavish guard house, both in violation of the Foundation’s Indenture of Trust.

In late May, Fisher insisted that the Barnes trustees drop the little-publicized painting-sale aspect of their petition, preserve the Foundation’s original educational program and preserve the painting "ensembles." On June 5, the trustees filed a new petition apparently aimed at placating Fisher while maintaining their requests to wipe out virtually every other significant mandate in the Indenture of Trust.

The new petition does not disturb the Indenture language preventing sale or loan of paintings, but only for works in the public areas of the gallery. The trustees want permission to be able to sell the significant collection in Dr. Barnes’ former house, which is also protected by the Indenture. They base this on a dubious 2001 ruling that allowed them to loan those works. That ruling was based on the falsehood that the works were rarely seen by anyone, when, in fact, they were regularly used in the art program. (See "Credibility Gap ?" below.)

The new petition still requests a move of the collection to a full-time museum in Philadelphia. It still removes from the Indenture the entire three-and-one-half days per week currently reserved "solely and exclusively" for the art program. In its place there is nice-sounding, but toothless, language about preserving a "Barnesian" educational program. The new petition also removes the Indenture limits on staff numbers that the trustees have been regularly violating since 1990. It also removes the prohibition against social events that do not have as their sole purpose the benefit of the Barnes Foundation, thus allowing a "hall for hire" that the Orphans’ Court had previously rejected as a violation of Barnes’ wishes. Ridiculously, the petition even removes the ban on copying the works of art that the previous trustees patently violated anyway to produce myriad reproductions adoring everything from nightlights to coffee mugs to mousepads. Finally, the new petition still seeks to add trustees not nominated by Lincoln University, thus diluting Lincoln’s role. In short, the only effective difference between the new petition and the first one is the elimination of the gallery painting sale and loan request.

Fisher’s demand that the painting "ensembles" be preserved is essentially worthless since the term is one the current management uses to describe individual wall arrangements of paintings and decorative objects. In fact, the paintings and objects in whole rooms relate to each other, and often to works in adjacent rooms. Verbatim preservation of the complete fabric of the Foundation’s collection is not what the trustees want since their petition speaks of a "larger, more user friendly" gallery "while maintaining Dr. Barnes’ ensemble vision [whatever that is supposed to mean] for display of The Foundation’s art collection." Meanwhile "the new modern facility would offer added classrooms and ancillary services (food storage, gallery shop, etc.) that are more appropriate for The Foundation’s collection." (emphasis added.) More appropriate than what? That which Barnes spent a lifetime creating? It is clear that the same intimate rooms of the present Merion gallery will not be duplicated since they cannot possibly accommodate the trustees’ goal of greatly expanded public visitation. Also clear is the fact that, in complete derogation of the method of study employed since 1926, the art classes will be excluded from the galleries and confined to classrooms to make room for tourists "more appropriate for the collection."

The new petition looks like a settlement between the trustees and Fisher, who seems to ignore the legal requirement that it must be impossible to operate the Foundation under the Indenture of Trust restrictions. "It’s a tremendous thing for Philadelphia and for the Barnes Foundation. But we can’t ignore what Dr. Barnes would want after that." Inquirer, 5/29/03. In other words, we’ll make some face-saving nods to Dr. Barnes’ intentions and call that a fair deal, but we are not going to work too hard to make the Foundation prove its case by playing the adversarial role that the law requires.

In a political twist that will have long-time observers of this case yawning, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has proposed Fisher for nomination to the Federal Court of Appeals—one step from the Supreme Court. Fisher, an anti-abortion Republican fits the Bush administration’s central criterion for selection to the so-called impartial federal bench, but he has even asked pro-choice Democrat, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for support. Rendell’s Democratic National Committee connections in the Senate may be helpful in avoiding a Democratic shut-down of Fisher’s nomination. While Fisher "does not oppose" the move of the Barnes collection to Philadelphia, Rendell is a vocal supporter of the plan and has received hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from individuals connected to the charities supporting the plan. While Fisher’s confirmation is in the balance, don’t expect too vigorous an examination of the Foundation’s case on his part. Indeed, he appears likely to declare the Foundation’s removal of the painting sale aspect of the petition and the inclusion of two toothless features a victory and approve the move before long.

The federal court nomination, which came in late April, could have prompted the aforementioned face-saving demands to the Barnes trustees. It might be that the folks Fisher needs for his court nomination, like Rendell and Specter, want the Barnes deal closed pronto, before there is too much opposition and searching inquiry of the plan (and of Fisher’s hands-off approach while millions evaporated). In case anyone was wondering, Specter, who proposed Fisher’s nomination, has also received thousands in campaign contributions from certain donors named Annenberg and Lenfest.

Foundation Director Kimberly Camp: A Credibility Gap?

The fairy tale that the Barnes management has "done its best" to survive and that there is no alternative but to sell out to big charity’s museum-on-the-Parkway scheme places a great deal of faith in one individual’s credibility. We’ll let the reader make that call. All quotations in this section are by Foundation director Kimberly Camp, unless otherwise indicated:

  • "We have a balanced budget and are projecting to end the year in the black" Inquirer, 7/26/99. In fact, the Foundation ended 1999 with a nearly $1.4 million deficit on a budget that was almost triple the 1990 budget.
  • Camp told an Inquirer reporter that the Foundation needs "a minimum of $2.5 million to operate." Inquirer, 11/16/00. Three days later the Inquirer reported "‘Our needs are very small,’ [Camp] said, noting that it would take $3 million annually to keep the Barnes afloat until it can expand it’s endowment." Meanwhile, the Foundation reportedly spent $4.5 million in 2002.
  • "We have reduced a $3 million deficit to $400,000 in three years." Inquirer, 3/10/03. Camp is referring to the 1998 deficit of $3.2 million. (See discussion elsewhere in this newsletter demonstrating that 1998’s deficit was an aberration). However, the Foundation’s tax returns show that three years later in 2001, the deficit was still over $800,000—not $400,000.
  • "Because of the Foundation’s poor financial situation, many of its current needs go unmet, including capital improvements, [and] upgrades of the . . . Merion Facility’s security systems." Camp Declaration 9/2/02. In fact, funds for long-term maintenance are available. The Orphans’ Court restricted all surplus rental revenue from the 1993-95 painting tour for that purpose. This fund is at least $4 million at last report. The claims for security upgrades are spurious, as state-of-the art security was installed in 1995 as part of the Foundation’s $12 million renovation.
  • "Last year [2002] our expenses were 30% below expectations." In 2002 the Foundation’s expenses were reportedly $4.5 million. Inquirer, 3/10/03. Presumably this means the expected expenses were $6.43 million, $2.5 million above the 2001 expenses of $3.9 million.
  • "It is not [Dr.] Barnes’ restrictions that are at issue with regard to our survival. The restrictions posed by Lower Merion Township . . . are unfortunate. How is 1200 people per week, 400 per day . . . a reasonable restriction?" Inquirer, 3/25/01. In fact, Dr. Barnes only allowed for public visitation one day per week. The Orphans’ Court, not the township, limited the admission fee to $5 per visitor.
  • "We have received written support from 34 of 37 families who live on Latches’ Lane. The [Inquirer] likes to call the other three families the "neighbors" as though they represent the whole community." Inquirer, 7/26/99. One of the "other three" neighbors asked each of the residents on the street if they had expressed any written support to Camp—none had.
  • "We are not able to have any more than 1200 people per week—400 per day, three days a week, pulsed in at 20 minute intervals by advance reservation only." KYW radio 5/29/03. The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board special exception granting permission for 1200 visitors a week only requires that there be a reservation system. There is no mention of "pulsed intervals" or that one must have a reservation to visit.
  • "If you read Barnes’ intentions and his writing and his articles and the books and the radio addresses, Barnes was enabling public visitation, he wasn't restricting it." Inquirer, 10/28/01. The Inquirer editorial board bought this, stating "Barnes wanted to make the great art he collected accessible to the masses." 6/08/03. The Indenture of Trust specifies only one day per week of public visitation. The Indenture also specifies that the gallery be open five days per week "solely and exclusively for educational purposes—to students and instructors of institutions which conduct courses in art and art appreciation." Dr. Barnes himself stated in a 1942 radio address: "The Barnes Foundation is an educational institution with a well-defined purpose and a very full program and that is why it cannot be a public gallery." emphasis added).
  • In a November 2000 grant application, Camp, apparently referring to Violette de Mazia, the Foundation’ Director of Education for over 40 years, stated: "The educational program of the Barnes Foundation faltered at the hands of one whom was assumed to be carrying out Barnes[’] original mandate. Instead, the programs became antithetical to the groundbreaking work done by Barnes and his first director of education, John Dewey." Earlier, when Camp was wooing a $760,000 grant from the Violette de Mazia Trust, she wrote: "We recognize that the contributions of Miss de Mazia are significant in the organization’s history and need to be commemorated through our continued collaboration." "I think Barnes would have been incensed by this kind of discussion. . . . Barnes certainly could have put the foundation anywhere he chose. He chose here." Inquirer, 3/9/00. "Relocation is not the answer." Inquirer, 3/25/01.
  • In 1999, Camp stated that "we completed a two-year project digitizing 70,000 of the 120,000 documents in our archives. " Inquirer, 7/26/99. Yet in 2000, the Foundation claimed it was "organizing and digitizing about 400,000 historic documents." Inquirer, 12/21/00. Then in 2001 Camp stated: "We have half a million documents." Inquirer, 10/28/01.
  • "The township mandated a second gate house. . . . They also mandated that it be two-story." Sworn testimony 5/3/01. It was the Barnes Foundation’s decision to build a two- story "gate house." Lower Merion Township had no role in the design of the building, which, incidentally, was built in violation of the terms of the Indenture of Trust.
  • Barnes attorney: "What, if anything, was done with the paintings among the works in storage after Dr. Barnes’ death?" Camp: "Nothing was really done with them that we’ve been able to determine. It is possible, during the period from Dr. Barnes’ death until about ten years ago, that the teachers may have moved the pieces in and out for classes. . . ." (emphasis added). It was more than possible, it was a fact, one which Camp herself had admitted in a document prior to this hearing: "[a]fter Dr. Barnes’s death, certain instructors at The Foundation would bring a painting from one or more storage locations to the Gallery for teaching purposes." Affidavit, 3/6/01.
  • "While a number of the works in storage are hung on the walls of the present day administration building, they can be appreciated there only by the Foundation’s staff and the occasional visitor to the building. . . . The works in storage have not served [the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts] for more than half a century." Affidavit, 3/6/01 (emphasis added). In fact, seminar classes were held in the administration building (as mandated by the Foundation’s Indenture of Trust) and used the paintings there almost from the day Mrs. Barnes died in 1966 until at least 1992. This is well documented in photographs in the Foundation’s Journal of the Art Department and in a 1971 court filing by the Foundation: "[S]pace in the administration building is currently being used as class rooms for a developing and growing seminar program."
  • Barnes attorney: "Do you know whether any of the works in storage [sic] in the present day administration building were displayed or kept in that building when Dr. Barnes was alive and using that building for a residence?" Camp: "The only definitive information that we have gotten so far is that there is a Denis painting. . . . Beyond that, we really are not sure." This is a little surprising given the following: "‘He saved it all,’ Camp said. ‘We have gas station receipts. We have his parking tickets. We have shipping manifests and invoices. We have calling cards and letters. Barnes kept carbon copies of every letter that he sent. He also kept everything that was sent to him. We have half a million documents. Another 10,000 photographs’" Inquirer, 10/28/01. In all of that, there was nothing to show what Barnes had on the walls of his house?
  • "‘I got the work done’ said Camp, who says she left the Detroit [Museum of African American History] with a $7 million budget and $1 million surplus." Inquirer, 11/19/00. Contrast this with reports just months before Camp left Detroit for Philadelphia. "Indeed, it has only been through cautious money management and unexpectedly strong museum sales and space rentals that the museum has managed to keep its $4.7 million operating budget—reduced from $6.8 million—out of the red." "First year attendance was projected at 600,000, a massive leap from the previous year when just 75,000 people came. But as the museum prepares to pass its first anniversary, attendance is under 400,000. And of that, just 225,000 paid for admission. The rest were there for free events." Camp herself said "The goal now is to stabilize . . . the chances of failure are still high." Detroit Free Press 4/15/98.

Disparaging Violette de Mazia and the Original Art Program

To Vio, who put into this book most of what makes it so much better than all previous editions.  

- Albert C. Barnes, handwritten inscription to Violette de Mazia in The Art In Painting, April 10, 1937.  

In 2000, the Foundation’s board and staff created a "strategic plan," which included "developing stronger programs to attract a broader audience and support for the Foundation’s mission." This has resulted in a sidelining of the original art program that Barnes intended to operate "in perpetuity," and to occupy the gallery five days per week, in favor of watered-down "user-friendly" entertainment. In a recent state grant application filed by Camp, the teachers of the Barnes-developed art program, whose tenure extends back to the 1950s, are now described merely as a "complement" to the Foundation’s other art instructors. Superficial references to the work of Dr. Barnes and John Dewey abound in the Foundation’s recent colorful brochures, but it is evident that there is little substance behind this talk as demonstrated by the free lectures given on public visiting days: "Gaugin was a jokester. He put a dog and a snake in the painting [Haere Pape] as a joke because there are no dogs or snakes in Tahiti." (Docent comment, 4/27/03). For readers unfamiliar with the Foundation’s approach, such superficial references to picture subjects are irrelevant to understanding the aesthetic qualities of the painting.

The Foundation’s education director has apparently been given free reign to "attract a broad audience" and to this end has rationalized the fact that much of what is being taught has little to do with Barnes or Dewey. "I don’t think there is a Barnes method per-se . . . I think Barnes’ and Dewey’s ideas are so broad and far-reaching that they allow lots of approaches." Inquirer, 4/27/03. In fact, Barnes could not have been more specific about the method to be used at the Foundation.

This sketch of the distinctive purpose of art and the conditions of success in it, in defining the method of the artist has indicated the only method possible for the understanding of the work of art. . . . Any method for the proper study of plastic art must therefore be based upon the conception of plastic form, which defines the only relevant aim of painting. Albert C. Barnes & Violette de Mazia, The Art of Renoir, "Method" p.8, (emphasis added).

In a 1942 article in House and Garden, Violette de Mazia described the Foundation’s classes as having a "well defined purpose and a very full program." Barnes himself echoed this statement in a radio address the same year. Today, that program has been relegated to the status of "complementing" the smorgasbord of more audience-attractive offerings dreamed up by Camp and her staff.

To effect this dumbing down of the Foundation’s educational "mission," Camp has been disparaging the main link to Barnes’ original educational program and his colleague for over twenty years, Violette de Mazia. De Mazia, who coauthored Barnes’ exhaustive monographs on Cezanne, Matisse and Renoir, directed and lectured in the Foundation’s art education program for years when Barnes was alive. For over thirty-five years after his death she continued the program and her teaching much as it had been when Barnes was alive. Not only did she continue the program, but expanded it to include a seminar program and revived the Journal of the Barnes Foundation to document the lecture material, and later financed and produced a similar journal, Vistas, when the Barnes board cut support for the first journal.

Camp’s agenda to downplay de Mazia’s critical role in the Foundation’s development is evident in her dismissal of de Mazia as "Barnes’ mistress" in a 2002 New Yorker article. This unsupported (and essentially irrelevant) charge appears to be part of a larger campaign to discredit and disappear over 60 years of de Mazia’s serious educational work at the Foundation. For example, Camp testified in court: "It is very safe to say that there are marked contrasts between what Barnes initially intended for the Foundation and how it operated during his lifetime from the way in which it operated after his death with his disciples—in this case, Miss de Mazia." (Referring to de Mazia as a "disciple," like "mistress," appears to be an attempt to relegate her to the status of hanger-on, when it is clear she had an active, vital role in the Foundation’s development.)

In fact, those who attended de Mazia’s classes prior to Barnes’ death and those who attended after his death attest to the fact that there was no change in method or substance. Students from both periods have class handouts that cover identical material. The most disruptive changes to the art program came after de Mazia’s death as indicated in this letter from a Foundation teacher who studied there during Barnes’ lifetime:

In the fall of 1991, the program as it was practiced at the Foundation since the 1920s was altered. Now it is necessary to move the students from room to room to compare paintings. Since it is difficult for the inexperienced to carry colors and lines in their heads, especially when looking at unfamiliar works of art, it is uncertain whether the students are always able to make the connections between the paintings and the traditions. (emphasis added).

Camp has also attempted to disconnect from Barnes’ work the important documentation of de Mazia’s lecture material contained in journals published after his death. "The Vistas were done by Violette de Mazia and seminar students and others, and while they were published as a publication of the Barnes Foundation [sic], their content is vastly different than the original journals of the Barnes Foundation." Sworn testimony 5/3/01 (emphasis added).

In fact, Vistas and the Journal of the Art Department were continuations of the work that was done during Barnes’ lifetime. Indeed, the topic "Learning to See" received treatment from Mary Mullen in a 1926 the Journal of the Barnes Foundation and fifty years later by de Mazia in the Journal of the Art Department. The topics covered in the post-Barnes journals and the methods of analysis applied derive directly from the ideas contained in Barnes’ The Art in Painting and from the books that he co-wrote with de Mazia. A copy of a handout from a de Mazia class given May 16, 1950 (a year before Barnes’ death) covers the topic "Form and Matter as Demonstrated with the Form of Renoir’s Color." In her essay posthumously published in Vistas, (Vol V. No. 2, 1991) de Mazia covers the identical subject and makes the same observations as in the class notes from 1950 and points out that this analysis is part of Barnes’ and her larger examination of Renoir’s form in The Art of Renoir. Given de Mazia’s co-authorship of every book Barnes wrote after The Art in Painting, it is startling that Camp would even attempt to claim that de Mazia’s later work could be "vastly different" than the Foundation’s earlier publications.

Perhaps the best testaments to de Mazia’s contribution to the Foundation’s work are these handwritten inscriptions Barnes made in the books that she co-wrote with him. In The Art of Henri-Matisse, 1933: "To Vio, who kept me from making many misjudgments as we worked together on this book." In The Art of Renoir, 1935: "To Vio, the balance wheel whose acute perception of essentials and unique sense of order, make of this book what I consider the best achievement of my life." In The Art of Cezanne, 1939:. "To Vio, to whose modesty and generosity I owe the use of my name as co-author."

If there is a deviation from Barnes’ work, its Camp’s doing, not de Mazia’s. A good example of this is that under de Mazia, the Foundation continued to print and sell Art and Education, which was a compilation, edited by Dr. Barnes, of articles by him, John Dewey, de Mazia and other teachers at the Foundation. The Foundation continued to sell the book even under Richard Glanton, who once dismissed the educational program as "hokum." Shamefully, the Foundation no longer sells this fundamental volume. Indeed, one can barely find the poorly reproduced copies of The Art in Painting that are for sale amid the shelves laden with gaudy nonsense in the Foundation’s store. Adding to the sense that the original art program is a sideshow is the fact that students report that the classes are routinely interrupted by other projects such as digital photography of the art collection and guests touring through the galleries as though the class were not there.

Camp’s alienation of the Foundation’s intended constituency—students and teachers of the art program that Barnes wanted to continue "in perpetuity"—is not without precedent. At the last place she ran, Detroit’s Museum of African American History, which began as a community-oriented venture, "a surprising level of ill will has often been focused on Camp. ‘This is no longer a self-determined project of African-American people. . . . We don’t feel it to be ours anymore. We feel it to be Ford’s and GM’s. They appear to be more important’ to Camp ‘than the voice of the people.’ [poet] Millard Porter said." Detroit Free Press, 4/15/98.

The Scapegoat Game

As demonstrated above, the Barnes Foundation could likely balance its budget, if it exercised fiscal restraint and returned to the efficient staff size and focused programs that its founder mandated. Rather than do this, the director and "CEO" (the position is not permitted under the Foundation’s bylaws) has blown up expenses to four times what they were in 1990. Meanwhile she would seem to have created an alibi in case her "fairy godmother" does not materialize. As the story has been told again and again—including a very loaded Inquirer editorial on June 8—it is the township’s and the local residents’ fault that the Foundation cannot balance its books, not the fact that it’s unchecked spending increases regularly exceeded revenue. For example, "It is not [Dr.] Barnes’ restrictions that are at issue with regard to our survival. The restrictions posed by Lower Merion Township . . . are unfortunate. How is 1200 people per week, 400 per day . . . a reasonable restriction?" Camp, letter to the Inquirer, 3/25/01. "We’ve even had notices saying we’re not permitted to hold fundraising events on our lawn." Camp, KYW radio 5/29/03. "Some blame should go to Lower Merion Township and some crabby neighbors of the Barnes for imposing impossible restrictions on its operation." Inquirer editorial, 6/08/03.

This story has been so often repeated that people who know nothing but what they read in the papers argue the point as if it were true. In reality, all the Township did was establish a public visitation limit (totaling 62,400 per year) which was significantly higher than the number of visitors admitted when the Foundation was in the black in 1990. At that time admission fees were $1, parking was free and there was no income from a gallery store. Of course there was no $170,000-per-year "CEO"; no $70,000 development director, no $57,000 director of merchandise and no host of support staff to go with them. As for the outdoor "fundraising events," which in the past have amounted to wholesale corporate rentals that violate the Indenture of Trust, the Foundation has never sought the required special exception that the Township requires of all similarly situated institutions. In return for upholding its zoning laws, the Township, its commissioners and their constituents were sued by the Barnes Foundation in a "cynically brought frivolous action" that the Foundation spent millions dragging through the courts and is still fighting insofar as it owes legal fees to the residents. In addition to legal, cultural and moral reasons why spending $150 million in scarce charitable dollars to build a full-time museum for the Barnes collection is a mistake, there is a practical reason—the economic basis on which such ventures were once justified is no longer valid.

The present public visitation limitations (1200 per week) make sense given the small size of the galleries and the fact that the Foundation’s Indenture of Trust (as modified by the courts) mandates that public visitation at the Foundation be limited to three-and-a-half days per week. In 1996, there were no limits on gallery attendance and the rooms were so crowded one could hardly breathe let alone appreciate the collection. Under Camp, the Foundation itself proposed a 1500 person per week limit in 1998, yet she now whines that 1200 per week is forcing it to move. Does Camp direct her ire at the Orphans’ Court judge that limited admission to $5? No. Why? One reason might be that to increase the fee would require the trustees to demonstrate that the Foundation cannot possibly operate without a higher admission fee. This would call into question why an institution running under the rules established by Dr. Barnes at $1.1 million per year now has a $4.5 million budget. It’s far easier to direct attention away from the Foundation’s books by wagging a finger across the street with ad hominem attacks on its neighbors.

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

In addition to legal, cultural and moral reasons why spending $150 million in scarce charitable dollars to build a full-time museum for the Barnes Foundation collection is a mistake, there is a practical reason—the economic basis on which such ventures were once justified is no longer valid. The premise once was that spending huge sums to attract tourists would pay off for cities in the long run. September 11 changed that notion. Tourism is way off. Since then, at least one major museum has scrapped its reported $200 million building expansion plans. In April, the Whitney Museum of American Art announced that it was shelving its expansion plans. "We’re feeling the pinch," said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Whitney’s director. "A project like this would be a big challenge, and we’re not in a position to proceed with it." New York Times, 4/15/03.

Not only has the tourism industry changed, so have the fortunes of the nation’s big charities, including two of the Foundation’s prime suitors, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Annenberg Foundation. "The Pew Charitable Trusts expects to award less grant money than at any time since 1988 because of the economy. ‘Every day I wake up hoping that we’ve hit bottom, but I don’t think we have,’ said Rebecca Rimmel, Pew’s chief executive officer." The News Journal, 4/21/03. The same article noted that other foundations have been equally hit by the falling stock market including another Barnes suitor, the Annenberg Foundation, which "lost about 30 percent of its value between the end of 1999 and 2002."

What happens when a new expensive museum is built in Philadelphia, costs exceed projections and the promised support dries up? The Pew, Lenfest and Annenberg foundations had provided for that eventuality. Their support was conditioned on elimination of all terms of the Barnes Foundation Indenture of Trust, including the one that was little mentioned in all the boosterist hoopla: "No painting shall ever be sold." Under pressure from the attorney general the Barnes trustees removed this request, but should the Barnes Foundation move to Philadelphia, and its wealthy suitors find other things to do with their scarce charitable dollars, watch the painting sale resurface. Recall that the now-deceased founder of one of these charities proposed just that back in 1991.

Spring 2003
Barnes Watch

In this Issue:

Politics, mere prestige, and the activities of those who have wealth without intelligence or discrimination, or good intentions without discernment, are largely in control in existing institutions and academies and their hand is fatal to any real aesthetic cultivation.

- Albert C. Barnes, Art and Education, preface (1929).

Once again, the Barnes Foundation is under siege.
   With the backing of some of the country's wealthiest charities, the trustees of the Barnes Foundation have petitioned the Montgomery County court that oversees charitable trusts for permission to completely eliminate the terms under which Dr. Albert C. Barnes gave his art collection to the public.  The petition, which includes removing Barnes' ban on the sale of the Foundation's artwork, is based on a politically popular bid to move the Foundation's art collection out of the Paul Cret-designed gallery Barnes commissioned in Merion to the museum district in Philadelphia.  As was the case in the early 90s, when the predecessors of the current trustees attempted to sell artwork and later settled for huckstering the collection on tour, the present trustees' case is built on the dubious premise that the Foundation cannot survive unless the entire trust indenture is thrown out and the trustees are allowed to operate the institution not as its donor intended, but as they (and their politically powerful backers) wish.  As demonstrated below, most of the Foundation's expenses are newly created, including a 25% jump in 2001 alone, when  the Foundation began considering moving the collection.

The current plan is backed by charities worth billions, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Lenfest Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation, some of which are paying for both the Foundation's legal fees and a New York based public relations blitz.  Any one of these tax-exempt entities could easily fund the Foundation's operating expenses in Merion on their pocket change, but instead they have mounted an all-out attack on the legal footing that for over seventy years has ensured that the Foundation's collection would be used primarily as a teaching tool as Barnes intended.

The current corporate take-over of the Foundation's collection for the benefit of the tourism industry and the prestige and money the Barnes paintings will allegedly bring to a debt-ridden City of Philadelphia is the culmination of a campaign begun by Walter Annenberg in the 1950s shortly after Barnes' death.  Annenberg, who spread his publishing millions distancing himself from his father's underworld roots by making gifts to numerous charities and more than a few politician's pockets, used his newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, to undermine the Foundation's educational mission, tar Barnes as a lunatic and eventually force Barnes' hand-picked trustees to operate the institution as a museum two-and-a-half days a week.  Barnes himself provided that on Saturday the collection should be open for free, but that Monday through Friday it was to be used solely and exclusively for education in the appreciation of the fine arts.

Annenberg's first effort eliminated 20% of the available educational time.   In the 1990s, at Annenberg's urging, Foundation president Richard Glanton petitioned the court for permission "to take any . . . action regarding the physical facilities, collection, art gallery, arboretum, properties or any other interests of the Foundation" a request similar in substance to that of the Foundation's current board.  Glanton ultimately won court approval for an additional day per week of museum use, cutting the available education time to three and a half days per week  in contrast to the five days mandated by Barnes.  Not content with this, the local gentry and nouveaux riches are now backing the current trustees' plan to move the collection to what will surely be a full-time museum on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway, thus completing the campaign - begun by Annenberg - to end the use of the collection for first hand study in aesthetics and remove it from the gallery Barnes commissioned.

The story is similar to the fate of the Johnson collection, which socialites of an earlier era found too inconvenient to visit in Johnson's South Philadelphia house.  They convinced a Philadelphia court that the place was unsafe and filled the vacuous halls of the then-new Philadelphia Museum of Art with artwork Johnson donated to the public on the condition that it remain together in his house.  Today, Annenberg's name greets visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art wing, where the core paintings are from Johnson's collection.  No doubt the backers of the current plan expect similar treatment once they have torn the Barnes paintings from their home.

Because Barnes donated his collection through an Indenture of Trust, which legally protects his mandate that it not be used as a full-time museum, the Foundation's trustees must convince a court that the trust can be broken because it is impossible to run the institution under its terms.  To achieve this "impossibility", the trustees have resorted to the same ploy Glanton used in the 90s - an inability to meet expenses.

In Glanton's case, a tremendous expense had to be invented as the Foundation was completely solvent at that time on a $1 million annual budget.  A hugely trumped-up renovation scheme, ultimately reported as costing $12 million, was the device for the first plan to break the Indenture.  Insiders have noted that all that was really necessary was a roughly $1.5 million upgrade to the environmental controls.  "That figure suddenly became  $15 million, [Glanton's] deliberately overstated the expense of the restoration." New York Times, April 4, 1993 at H2.  In his detailed 1993 expose, The Barnes Case,  How the Trustees Faked It: Renovation Budgets and Other Hoaxes, A.F. Brown equated the trustees' invention of a crisis that would raise their standing to Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, where "an illness is fabricated or induced in children by parents or caretakers for the attention and sympathy they gain from others and for the sense of control they gain from caring for a sick child."

With the "museum in sore disrepair" hoax now unavailable - exposed as it was by Brown and with $12 million in "repairs" having been completed in 1995 "the trustees" invented illness this time appears to be to spend the Foundation into unmanageable debt.  Due credit must be given to the Glanton-era trustees, however, who began ballooning the budget back in 1991, and used the inflated expenses in 1995 to demand full time museum use from the Orphans' Court.  At that time, when the claimed annual budget was supposedly $1.3 to $1.6 million, the court ruled that the Foundation should have been able to meet these costs while operating as intended by Barnes.  At the time, the court noted that turning the Foundation into a full time museum, which Glanton wanted, was "far beyond the donor's intent."

Since the court turned Glanton down in 1995, the Foundation has spent over  $5 million in legal fees, waging, among other pointless battles, a "frivolous and cynically brought" civil right suit against Lower Merion Township and its residents, aspects of which the Foundation is still fighting.  Not content with blowing the remaining endowment on legal fees, Glanton's successors have ballooned the annual budget from a projected $1.5 million for 1996 to nearly $4 million in 2001.  A large portion of this went to increasing staff and management.  This was a blatant violation of hiring limits Barnes mandated in order to prevent the trustees from doing exactly what they have done: turned an institution created to operate a highly focused unique program of study into a corporate model chasing grant makers with a variety of trendy offerings, all of which would have repulsed Barnes'who realized that little could be learned by "aimless wandering through art galleries."

Pew, etc. Aim to Shred Barnes' Blueprint: What Is at Stake


The Indenture of Trust of the Barnes Foundation, which the trustees (and their wealthy backers) seek to wipe out entirely, represents more than a simple legal document establishing rules for operating a charitable institution.  In the words of one legal commentator:

The conditions represent Barnes' overarching methodology and his intention as to how to perpetuate his Foundation.  These conditions are mandatory, non-negotiable terms that the donor deemed necessary to guide the trustees in their management of his educational designs . . . They should be honored to the fullest extent possible.

Chris Abbinante, Protecting "Donor Intent" In Charitable Foundations: Wayward Trusteeship and the Barnes Foundation, 145 U. Pa. L. Rev. 665 (1997).

Not content with damage the Glanton era trustees did to undermine Dr. Barnes' intentions, the current trustees seek to wipe out all terms of the Indenture of Trust.  This would:

  • Allow the Foundation to sell, loan or buy new paintings without court approval.  The news media (perhaps lulled by meaningless promises that "we would never to that") have shamefully ignored this aspect of the court petition.  A similar attempt by Richard Glanton in 1991, raised a firestorm of protest.
  • Allow the Foundation to display the collection in a full-time museum.  This is no doubt the central reason for the legal fee and public relations support of Pew etc., not to mention the support of political heavyweights such as Pennsylvania's governor, himself a beneficiary of hundreds of thousands in campaign gifts from the Annenbergs and Lenfests.
  • Eliminate trust terms ensuring uninterrupted first hand access to the collection for students of the art education program at least three and a half days per week.  Incredibly, the Orphans' Court ruled that the students do not have any immediate interest in the present court proceedings despite the fact that they stand to lose this essential feature of the original Barnes program.  The ruling is perplexing given that the central theme of the trustees' petition is to create a full-time museum - a direct conflict with Dr. Barnes' mandate that the galleries be primarily used "solely" for established education programs.
  • Eliminate trust terms that ensure a reasonable admission fee on public visiting days. Instead of returning to court with evidence of a need to raise the fee, the Foundation has been skirting the 1995 Orphans' Court ruling requiring a $5 admission limit by requiring advanced ticket purchases and then charging a handling fee for each separate date booked, not to mention a $10 advanced parking fee.
  • Eliminate trust terms that keep staff numbers consistent with the highly focused educational program Dr. Barnes intended.  As detailed below, the present regime has flouted this rule, nearly doubling the already inflated staff-related expenses of the Glanton era.
  • Eliminate trust terms that require that the Foundation's galleries and art collection be used only for events whose sole purpose is to benefit the Barnes Foundation. This term as well has already been violated in numerous ways, including one notorious event during the 2000 Republican National Convention where a drug company used the Foundation to host politicians.  The premise that a donation is paid to the Foundation does not remove the fact that, as the Orphans' Court termed it, "a hall for hire" flies in the face of Barnes' "unwavering contention that art is no trivial matter, no device for the entertainment of dilettantes, or upholstery for the houses of the wealthy, but a source of insight into the world."  Albert C. Barnes, Art and Education, preface to 1st ed., 1929.  If the trustees have their way, a hall for hire will likely be the norm, with high rolling companies using the art collection as a backdrop to corporate schmooze fests, while Barnes' treasured educational program is removed to "new classrooms."

The Foundation's Financial Picture: an Exercise in Unchecked Spending


While the media have swallowed whole the Foundation's claims of financial crisis, there has been no independent investigation of its books.  A fair picture of the Foundation's excessive spending can be easily made, however, from its publicly available tax returns and court documents from the Glanton era.  Consider the following:

  • In 1990 the Foundation was solvent on a $1.1 million budget.  Since then, unchecked increases in hiring and other costs have resulted in a 2001 budget of nearly $4 million. The road to Philadelphia was laid out in the March 6, 2001 New York Times by Ed Rendell, who is now Pennsylvania's governor.  "[I]f it continues to have fiscal problems then I think this talk [of moving] will ripen and it will be something that needs to be taken seriously. . . . If their reform plan doesn't work, then moving to the city becomes a viable option."  As if on cue, the Foundation increased spending from $3 million in 2000 to $3.9 million in 2001 with an $855,940 deficit.   Add to this the fact that local charities had also gotten the message: Don't help the Barnes Foundation now, it will only delay the excuse for moving to the city.
  • A 1995 Orphans' Court ruling made Indenture changes affecting investment A 1995 Orphans' Court ruling made Indenture changes affecting investment  policy and allowed increased public attendance (cutting into the available art education time), increased gallery admission fees and fundraising events at the Foundation's gallery. increased revenue to the Foundation.
  • In 1999 the Foundation took in roughly $1.1 million, not counting a grant of $750,000 from the de Mazia trust. Thus, the Foundation was regularly generating sufficient income in 1999 to support its 1990 level of expenses, despite the loss of income due to its irresponsible wasting of the original endowment. In 1999 the Foundation took in roughly $1.1 million, not counting a grant of $750,000 from the de Mazia trust. Thus, the Foundation was regularly generating sufficient income in 1999 to support its 1990 level of expenses, despite the loss of income due to its irresponsible wasting of the original endowment.  In addition to this income, the Violette de Mazia trust (established by Barnes' collaborator in the art program and co-author on numerous books) is spending significant sums for access to the Foundation's gallery for its own "Barnesian" art education program.  There is no reason to doubt that such "support" would not continue in the future as the de Mazia  funds must be spent on programs that "most closely complement the purposes and practices of the Barnes Foundation" (at least as those practices were in 1988 when de Mazia died). 
  • Since 1991, the Foundation has been steadily increasing the numbers of staff and other employees, in direct violation of Indenture limits on hiring and with obvious adverse financial consequences.  This was brought to the attention of Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Barth in 1999, 2000 and 2001, with no apparent action on his part (and no reply either).


  • As the accompanying chart shows, had the Foundation maintained the same level of staffing that it had up until 1990, its wage-related expenses would be at least $900,000 lower than it spent in 2001, even allowing for reasonable increases based on published cost of living allowances.
  • For example, in 1998, with no clear source of support for the additional expense, the Foundation hired "CEO" Kimberly Camp at a reported salary of "around $150,000." For example, in 1998, with no clear source of support for the additional expense, the Foundation hired "CEO" Kimberly Camp at a reported salary of "around $150,000."  This came in a year when new board president Ken Sadler admitted that the Foundation was running a deficit. Inquirer, Feb. 15, 1998).  As of 2001, Camp was making $170,000 per year, not including benefits.
  • In addition to Camp's outrageous salary, by 2001 the Foundation was paying $71,896 for a "Director of Development," $60,200 for a "Director of Education," $72,100 for a "Director of Finance," and $57,304 for a "Director of Merchandising." In addition to Camp's outrageous salary, by 2001 the Foundation was paying $71,896 for a "Director of Development," $60,200 for a "Director of Education," $72,100 for a "Director of Finance," and $57,304 for a "Director of Merchandising."  With the possible exception of the Director of Education, none of these positions is allowed by the Indenture, which clearly mandates that the Foundation's organizational chart was to remain unchanged after Barnes' death.  In response, the Foundation's lawyers have claimed that a 1971 decision that allowed minor Indenture changes due to inflation allows this full-scale assault on Barnes' original premise. 
  • A recent Foundation publication listed a "Collections Staff" including: a conservator, a conservator's assistant, a registrar, a registrar's assistant, a collections assessment project director, a collections assessment project director's assistant, an archivist and an art handler. A recent Foundation publication listed a "Collections Staff" including: a conservator, a conservator's assistant, a registrar, a registrar's assistant, a collections assessment project director, a collections assessment project director's assistant, an archivist and an art handler.  In 1998, prior to Camp's arrival, none of these positions appeared on an already expanded organizational chart.  The Indenture mandates that there shall be nothing more than a single "art director . . .  to supervise the gallery [and] see that the paintings are properly cared for." 
  • The Foundation's cost of insurance for 2001 was $194,767 - a 500% increase over the 1991 rate. The Foundation's cost of insurance for 2001 was $194,767 - a 500% increase over the 1991 rate.  One likely source of the increase is the Foundation's numerous lawsuits, perhaps a hangover from the Glanton era, but one which it continues to feed, as it still refuses to settle a legal fee dispute over the "cynically brought . . . frivolous" civil rights suit against its neighbors. The art collection itself is not insured, as the ever cost conscious Dr. Barnes mandated that it not be insured in the Indenture.  On possible source of the huge increase is that the Foundation changed the amounts of coverage. 
  • In 1993-95 the Foundation installed state of the art security systems, including video cameras in each of the rooms of the art gallery. In 1993-95 the Foundation installed state of the art security systems, including video cameras in each of the rooms of the art gallery. 
  • For an institution that is supposedly cash-strapped, the Foundation had no problem spending almost $30,000 on travel and conferences in 2001 and another $78,000 on printing and publications. For an institution that is supposedly cash-strapped, the Foundation had no problem spending almost $30,000 on travel and conferences in 2001 and another $78,000 on printing and publications.  Those who visited the gallery pre-Glanton will recall that the only printed offering was a small three-fold pamphlet that quite succinctly explained the Foundation, its purpose and its educational programs. 

In sum, the Foundation is rife with unnecessary expenses, while its sources of income have greatly increased since the time when it managed almost exclusively on the income from its $10 million endowment.  Someone a little creative might go back and try to hold the trustees who squandered that money responsible for the loss.  In fact, Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Barth suggested as much in 1998.  The board of trustees are fiduciaries, and they are responsible for their actions. If someone complains and the complaint is sustained by the court the trustees can be held liable for their actions. Inquirer,  Feb. 15, 1998.  But unlike the situation at Lincoln, where in 1998 Attorney General Mike Fisher ordered an independent forensic audit, Barth allowed the Foundation to hire its own auditor.  According to the Inquirer (Nov. 2, 2000), Barth never followed up on that audit.  He has also not responded to entreaties for three years running to halt the Foundation's expansionist hiring in violation of the Indenture.  Now that the political powers are behind the move to Philadelphia, Don't expect anything from the Attorney General that would upset the "Barnes is broke so it has to move" story.

As was the case in the Glanton era, the news reports of the Foundation's "dire" financial condition have become reality in the public's eyes.  Never mind that the reports are merely parroting statements and press releases by the Foundation and the New York public relations firm, the Kriesberg Group; or that no newspaper or magazine has done even a cursory, let alone serious, investigation of the Foundation's finances.  The media have swallowed the story, which now represents the "truth".  For what it's worth, the Foundation has reportedly refused to participate in a piece by the investigative television news program "60 Minutes," no doubt in the hope (apparently realized) that without the Foundation's cooperation (and access to attention-grabbing artwork) the producers would drop the story.   They needn't have bothered.  With the high dollar charities behind the plan and its well-oiled political support, it's doubtful that the mainstream program would have rocked the boat.

Likewise, the Foundation hopes to bring its version of the financial picture to court without any serious challenge.  The trustees opposed the participation in court of three students who specifically mentioned the need for in-depth discovery of financial documents in their petition to intervene in the proceedings.  The Foundation's claim that additional parties to the proceeding add legal expenses - a non-issue as Pew etc. are reportedly paying the freight is a screen for its real concern that someone might actually challenge the party line in court with real data such as that demonstrated above.  Don't expect the Attorney General to do any serious investigation either.  His deputy with oversight over the Foundation, Lawrence Barth, has ignored the Foundation's overspending (much of which resulted from Indenture violations) for years, and apparently never followed up on the Foundation's internal forensic audit.  As reported in the Inquirer, Feb. 13, 2003, the Foundation has already succeeded in enlisting the attorney general and the governor in an effort to mollify the Foundation's objectors so as to preclude their participation in court.  This would allow a virtual free ride for the Foundation to promote whatever financial picture it likes.

Supporting the trustees' case will be a big name accounting firm's report that the Foundation cannot continue to operate under the Indenture terms.  The weight of such an opinion, however, which was likely generated from a Foundation wish list of "necessaries", must be viewed in the post-Enron era with considerable skepticism.  At one point, the firm recommended that the Foundation needed an $85 million endowment to survive a laughable prospect given that the Foundation was totally solvent on a $10 million endowment as recently as 1991 when admission fees were $1 and a host of other income-producing sources that exist today were not in place.  Nevertheless the $85 million figure was duly reported by the media.

False Promises:
Court Documents Show New Museum Will Not Duplicate Barnes' Installation of the Collection

In their statements to the press and their lawyer's oral argument in court, the Foundation has repeatedly promised to install the artwork in the proposed Philadelphia museum-gallery "exactly" as it was in the Merion gallery.  A look under the surface of these statements suggests otherwise.  For example, a November 18, 2002 press release states that the Foundation will "maintain in its new gallery the ensembles developed by Dr. Barnes."  Sounds good, except that ensemble simply means "a group constituting an organic whole."  The word does not imply anything about the physical arrangement of the elements of the group or the spacing between them, nor does the statement assure that all 23 rooms will be reinstalled.  Equally unconvincing is Kimberly Camp's October 11, 2002 couched statement that the works will be installed "following the same pedagogical principles espoused by Dr. Barnes."  Since the goal of moving the collection is to maximize public visitation, it seems clear that the design of the intimate rooms of the Foundation will not be replicated in the new building.  In fact, before the 1993-95 tours were even court-approved, former National Gallery of Art director Carter Brown admitted that he would not install the Barnes paintings at the National Gallery exhibition as they are at the Foundation because it would impede crowd flow to have so many works so close together.  The Barnes galleries and the painting arrangements were made to support the educational program, not public visitation.  As it seems clear that tourists, not students, will have the run of the new galleries, the trustees have little reason to replace the setup, which will only hamper their stated goal of increasing visitation.

In fact, the Foundation's legal memorandum filed September 24, 2002 ("memo of law") shows that the visual relationships painstakingly developed over decades by Barnes will not be replaced exactly.  "[W]ith the proper funding and support, the acclaimed collection now in the Foundation's Merion gallery could be displayed in a larger, more user-friendly gallery, offering . . . a welcome viewing experience for students and seasoned and novice visitors alike."  (emphasis added) What this means is anyone's guess, but it is clear that the visual relationships setup by Barnes will be far from "identical" if they are somehow slapped into "larger more user-friendly" galleries.  Of course all of this is aimed at accommodating "seasoned and novice visitors alike," all at the expense of the only reason the Foundation was set up in the first place, and the sole reason Barnes placed strict limits against rearranging, selling and loaning the artwork, namely that the collection was to serve as first hand material for its classes in aesthetics.  But that is not the aim of the Foundation's current trustees, whose memo of law refers to "more splendid and accessible quarters."  More splendid   There should be public outrage that this one man's vision, cultivated over nearly half a century will now be upended by johnny-come-lately trustees and their wealthy backers who think they can just order up "more splendid quarters" from the latest trendy designer and slap them on Barnes' magnificent collection like a new pair of shoes.

Equally dubious is the Foundation's assurance that "art classes will be housed in the new gallery where the collection is housed, and the artworks will continue to be used in connection with the education program."   Press release Nov. 18, 2002 (emphasis added).  In the first place, this assurance rings hollow against the statement of the Foundation's lawyer in the October 11, 2002 Inquirer that the art classes would remain in the Merion facility after the artwork moved to Philadelphia.  Second, the Foundation's memo of law refers to "added classrooms" in the new building.  In other words, separate rooms where classes will be held while the tourists mill about in the user-friendly galleries.  Camp's statement that the artwork would be used "in connection with" the educational program does not say that the classes will be held in front of the actual paintings.  More likely, the plan for "added classrooms" only confirms that students will be separated from the artwork.  Of course this naturally follows the Foundation's desire to eliminate all terms of the Indenture, including the mandate that five days per week (now three and a half) the gallery be open "solely and exclusively for educational purposes to students and instructors of institutions which conduct courses in art and art appreciation."  Pew etc. are not paying the Foundation's legal bills so that they end up with a three and a half day museum in Philadelphia, it is clear they want a full-time museum, leaving the true beneficiaries of the Barnes trust"students of his art program" to be housed in new classrooms to view "digital reproductions" as Camp suggested in a meeting with current Barnes students.

Can a Sale of Barnes Paintings Be Far Away?


Any promise to replicate the Barnes galleries in the new museum building must be weighed against the Foundation's admission in its memo of law that it wants to be able to

tak[e]  advantage of opportunities to enhance its collection through strategic purchases of works of art that would complement its current possessions, and from borrowing works that, when added to its own works of art, would offer unique special exhibits that could attract both donors and public visitors. (emphasis added).

This admission must be coupled with another in the memo, which states that the Indenture's

prohibition of loans or sales of any portion of the art collection  . . . severely restricts the Foundation's ability to use its invaluable collection to attract donors and to promote education and the appreciation of the fine arts, and [the provision] must be eliminated to give the Foundation discretion to manage its collection.  (emphasis added).

Taken together, these two statements show that the Foundation has no intention of keeping even the same paintings let alone the exact visual relationships Barnes created.  Worse, it wants the ability to essentially create a new collection that Barnes would never recognize.

The fact that these statements have not been reported by the media may account for the lack of public outcry over the present petition.  Conversely, the fact that there would be an outcry may account for why they have not been reported by the  Inquirer, which welcomed the news of a move to Philadelphia as "a rare opportunity to benefit the region."  This indifference to the fate of the collection as assembled by Barnes is appalling given that the Barnes Foundation is widely recognized as a "rare thing, a great American collection that remains free-standing and thus preserved in its totality."  Eric Gibson, The Washington Times, April 30, 1993.  If the court gives the Foundation what it wants, it may soon be prey to what Gibson termed an "epidemic of cavalier stewardship [where] collections have been treated not as objects of enduring value but like pieces in a stock portfolio, to be traded or cashed in as fashion dictates."

la Danse:
Adrift Again in a Foreign Space


In the 1993-95 painting tour, museum directors from Philadelphia to Washington to Paris displayed their ignorance of even the most obvious visual relationships by installing one Barnes work, Matisse's la Dance, at eye level in cavernous boxy rooms.  Will a similar fate await the work in the proposed new Philadelphia museum  Matisse created the thirty-foot-long mural consisting of three canvas panels specifically for the Barnes Foundation.  So married was the work to the space that Matisse spent a year reworking it when he realized that his measurements were off slightly.   Matisse wrote:

I had to stay in strict conjunction with the masonry, so that the lines would hold their own against the enormous projecting blocks of the down-curving arches, and even more important, that the lines would follow across them with sufficient vitality to harmonize with each other. Architectural painting depends absolutely on the place that has to receive it, and which animates it with a new life. Once it is placed there, it cannot be separated.

Jacqueline & Maurice Guillaud, Matisse: Rhythm and Line 297 (emphasis added).

While la Danse is the most glaring example of the colossal ignorance of those who support moving the Barnes artwork, the entire collection will suffer if not installed in the same physical setting - an impossibility as the Barnes gallery is on a thirteen acre arboretum and no such space exists in the proposed site.  The southerly setting behind the Foundation's main gallery windows, with its expanse of trees and lawn, is irreplaceable in the proposed spot. Matisse himself considered this setting when designing la Danse and it is clear to anyone who understands Barnes' achievement that this view was an important element in main gallery installation.  It is equally clear that the present management of the Foundation is completely ignorant of this, having upset that space with new structures to accommodate tourists (in violation of the Indenture), and regularly leaving the widow shades half drawn.

In addition to the obvious relationship the main gallery view has to the collection, the very placement of the building affects the lighting in each and every room.  See, for example, the effect of the warm late-afternoon light on Matisse's Blue Still Life in the west side of the building.  Once again, the present management appear oblivious to this, leaving many gallery shades drawn for no good reason.  Overexposure is not an issue as filters to exclude damaging ultraviolet light were supposedly installed in the recent renovation, so that natural light could be fully exploited as Barnes and Cret intended.  The proposed space in Philadelphia cannot begin to replicate the lighting effect that Barnes considered when he installed the collection and Matisse considered when he painted la Danse.

Governor Rendell's Offer to "Mediate"


In a display of hubris not seen since Richard Glanton ran the Barnes Foundation, governor-elect (at the time) Ed Rendell offered to "broker a solution" between the Barnes Foundation and the parties opposed to the move so that the case could go to the Orphans' Court without intervening parties, i.e. without any searching examination of the Foundation's true financial condition.  Recall, it was Rendell who forecasted (or was it more) the move to Philadelphia in 2001, wondering "how long can they survive [in Merion]"  If their reform plan doesn't work, then moving to the city becomes a viable plan.  Since then he has been a vocal advocate for the plan.  If the Barnes moved to the Parkway, there isn't a person interested in art who wouldn't come to Philadelphia.  New York Times, Sept. 25, 2002.

In any true mediation, the mediator is an unbiased party.  Not so in the Wonderland of Pennsylvania politics.  Rendell's offer to "broker" takes on heightened significance now that Lincoln University is the only party granted standing to oppose the Barnes trustees in court.  As a state-affiliated school, receiving the lion's share of its budget from the state, Rendell might have something to say about when the next check is coming.   Don't expect a big fight from Lincoln.

While Rendell's enthusiasm for trashing Barnes' vision in order to fill the city's hotels and restaurants is consistent with his role as a politician, it's worth mentioning that the founders of the Annenberg and Lenfest foundations gave heavily to his campaign for governor.  In an unrelated story on Rendell, the Inquirer reported that Annenberg and his wife gave Rendell's campaigns $225,000.  Unpublished campaign finance reports show that the founder of the Lenfest foundation gave $52,500, while another Lenfest, listed as an employee of the foundation gave $22,800.  Relevant? The Inquirer didn't think so.  No mention was made in three separate stories on Rendell's involvement with the Barnes matter.

A Curious Silence at the Inquirer


The Inquirer's editorial policy is clear.  The rape of the Barnes Foundation is to be welcomed as a "rare opportunity to benefit the region."  But the paper's position is evident beyond the editorial page.  For example, since the Foundation filed to eliminate the Indenture and move the collection, the paper has placed coverage of the story in its business section, where for-profit mergers and acquisitions, along with the occasional accounting scandal are normally featured.  Meanwhile, the paper has never reported that the current petition before the court seeks to eliminate the ban against sale of paintings.  When Richard Glanton tried this, it ended up on the front page.  One suspects that news that the Foundation and its wealthy backers might have more in mind than just a move could somehow taint the happy story of  this "rare opportunity" and risk a public outcry like the one that followed Glanton's opening salvo.

One voice at the Inquirer has been curiously absent of late.  In 1998, at the end of the Glanton era, Inquirer critic Edward Sozanski commented that

What was overlooked by both Glanton and his board (along with people who saw the Barnes Foundation as a tourist magnet) is that there wasn't anything intrinsically wrong with continuing to operate the foundation primarily as an educational program.  That, after all, was what the founder intended.

When talk of moving the collection first surfaced in 2001 Sozanski responded with an article titled "Big is very bad for the Barnes."

The Barnes needs to stay small, and not just for aesthetic reasons.  There's a moral imperative to conserve the founder's creation, which, after all, functioned perfectly well for six decades.  . . . The idea of moving the Barnes is really about developing Philadelphia's assets for cultural tourism.  But why should the Barnes be sacrificed to that goal . . . ?

Since the Foundation announced its plans to move, Sosanski's commentary along these lines has been absent from the Inquirer's pages.   It is doubtful that his silence stems from a change of heart.  To be sure, he hasn't come out in favor of the move.   Those who will deny that there is an active clampdown at the Inquirer on news and commentary adverse to moving the collection will be hard-pressed to present evidence to the contrary.

Call for Action


The Orphans' Court recently denied the request of current Barnes Foundation students for permission to participate in the hearings on the elimination of the Indenture of Trust and the movement of the collection.  As such, the Attorney General must get the message that a serious investigation into the Foundation's financial claims is warranted and not a rubber stamp of their request to the court, as has been the case in the past.   In addition, Governor Rendell, who openly favors the move, should know that not all are in favor of violating a man's will and destroying a great institution for the short-sighted goal of increasing tourism.
Mike Fisher
Attorney General
Sixteenth Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
e-mail Attorney General Fisher
Edward Rendell
225 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
e-mail Governor Rendell