Robert Redford is perennially one of the people “most admired” by just about everyone. So when Robert Redford talks about the Barnes Foundation controversy with Philadelphia Inquirer’s movie critic Steve Rea, we’re all ears. Seems he visited The Barnes a few months ago and was impressed. And when he and Steve talked recently, Robert Redford asked, “Hey, are they moving the Barnes out of that mansion?” And he wonders, “Has that gone down smoothly, or has it been a rocky controversy?” Good questions!
We’re glad that Steve decided to write about it in “Robert Redford drops into the Barnes, and talks about art and ‘the uproar’.” Uproar is just what this controversy calls for.
Yes, a small group of Philadelphia elites are planning to move the Barnes art collection to Philadelphia from the “mansion” - the gallery building designed for the Barnes art collection in Merion. But then again they said it would be done by 2007, then 2009. Now they claim the collection will open in Philadelphia in 2012. Let’s say the situation inspires a certain amount of skepticism.
Has it gone smoothly? No! Not at all. The people trying to pull off what’s been called “the biggest art heist in history” laid out what they thought was a perfect plan. Wresting control of the Barnes art collection from the small and relatively powerless Lincoln University Board was not a huge challenge. After all, it was orchestrated – and paid for - by some of the country’s biggest philanthropies (Pew Charitable Trusts, the Annenberg Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation). And then there was the famous “good cop, bad cop” routine by two major political heavies (at the time) -- Ed Rendell and Attorney General Mike Fisher.
It should have been a piece of cake.
But instead, the 2004 Court decision permitting the move only added fuel to the fire of disapproval. The organized opposition -- never expected to last by the elites who planned the move -- just keeps getting bigger.
And now Friends of the Barnes Foundation are back in Court with their lawyer, Sam Stretton. Judge Ott is going to weigh a very compelling case and then he’ll decide what to do - based on the law. Hope you’ll stay tuned, Mr. Redford. As they say in Montana, “It behooves the little dog to win.”