Our mission is simply this: to preserve the Barnes Foundation in Merion because it is a cultural treasure of national importance and one of the most extraordinary places to see art in the world. The Barnes Foundation, composed of its art collection, gallery building and 12-acre arboretum, was bequeathed to us by Albert C. Barnes, a Renaissance man who was a scientist, visionary art collector and educator. He and his wife Laura devoted their lives to creating The Barnes in Merion as their generous gift to the world. There is nothing like it anywhere. We believe that future generations deserve the real Barnes, not a phony replica.
Powerful interests, including the Pew Charitable Trusts along with Governor Rendell and his cronies have used political and legal maneuvers in an effort to rip the Barnes art collection from its historic home in Merion and move it to a site in Philadelphia, 4 ½ miles away, at huge expense. These people may wield power at the moment, but the way we see it, they are vandals pillaging a great man’s legacy and ruining one of our country’s outstanding cultural monuments in the process. We are committed to doing everything we can to stop this destruction and waste.
The reason we feel so strongly is because removing the art collection would destroy the very essence of the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes is more than its art collection, much more. There is the art collection, assembled and installed personally by Dr. Barnes for an educational purpose. There is the gallery building especially designed for the art collection by one of the Philadelphia’s most famous architects, Paul Philippe Cret. And there is the 12-acre historic arboretum, which is the reason Albert Barnes chose Merion as the site for his foundation in the first place. The gallery with its art collection and the arboretum are profoundly rooted to one another in Merion and nowhere else. Dr. Barnes described them as “one and indivisible.”
The Barnes Foundation is an enormously significant site of our shared cultural heritage. The National Park Service has determined that The Barnes is eligible to be a National Historic Landmark, the highest level of historical and cultural significance bestowed by the federal government — but only if the art collection remains in Merion. Visitors to The Barnes can see the interrelationships between the art, the buildings and the grounds, and feel the care and attention paid to every detail. It’s so obvious that taking the art collection from its Merion site and sticking it into a replica completely dismisses the importance of The Barnes as a national cultural treasure. The Barnes, in its entirety, is the gift left by Dr. Barnes in trust, in perpetuity. There is no justification for dismantling it.
Beyond its moral and ethical implications, the proposed move also raises serious public policy and financial issues. The move should never be undertaken. But in the midst of the worst economic climate our country has faced in decades, when people are losing their jobs, their security and their family homes, when fire stations are implementing rolling blackouts, libraries are closing, cultural institutions are eliminating staff and programs to save precious financial resources, this project should be abandoned. It makes no sense to spend over $200 million to move an art collection from its historic home where it has been located, in perfection, for over 80 years.
So we are drawing a line at this place and saying that The Barnes is not to be carved up and mutilated by short-sighted, politically-driven people with commercial motivations. This place is to remain whole. This place is to be honored and preserved for generations to come.
Here is what we promote:
Stop the move of the art collection from its historic home to an inferior replica gallery less than 5 miles away.
Stop all spending of taxpayer funds on the wasteful, destructive move. $107,000,000 is in the Pennsylvania capital budget to build a new Barnes building, yet to this day nobody has taken responsibility for this allocation or knows how it happened.
Expose the deeply flawed business plan of the move, which puts The Barnes in fiscal jeopardy.
Develop a responsible financial plan with prudent professional management to ensure a sustainable Barnes Foundation in Merion.
Improve access to the authentic, 12-acre Barnes site in Merion with a shuttle bus and expanded hours for public visitation.
Urge people to see The Art of the Steal, the documentary film that explores the background of the move and exposes the real motives behind it.
For more information, see our FAQ.