Thursday, September 30, 2004

Barnes hearing closure

"The museum intends to honor the wishes of the Homer family and the privacy of the neighboring by preserving the home and making it available for private tours to scholars, collectors, educators and others who are interested in Homer and American art, said museum director Daniel E. O'Leary"
from; Portland Museum purchase of Homer cottage

Today the hearing in Norristown, PA concluded with the closing arguments of the Foundation, Attorney Generals representative and the lawyers for the students.
All parties expressed their positions with clarity and skill.

It is in the hands of Judge Ott who thanked all parties for their professionalism. It will be interesting to hear his decision.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Barnes reproductions

Art Find- Barnes reproductions for sale on the web.

What income from the sale of reproductions does the Barnes Foundation receive?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Barnes students day in court

Monday the hearings resumed after what must have been a very busy time at the Foundation. The testimony on Friday by Ms. Malaro must have made the trustees think about the soundness of their case. Ms. Camp took the stand and with a strong voice and clear presentation tried to present a sound argument that the Barnes was planning to use Ker-Feal and the complete collection to fulfill it's mission. Much of what was said, authoritative in voice, was lacking in detail or substance. A list of possible uses does not make an educational plan that can be reviewed for appropriateness or educational substance. There seems to be no intellectual rigor or direct plan to follow the educational philosophy of Barnes. I don't know from listening in court, how the plan to have more audio tours available will improve the education of art appreciation. If they are just "art history tours" about the individual artists lives, how will that information teach the depth of knowledge Dr. Barnes required?

The court room was treated to a rare view of the real art world when Mr. Feigen took the stand. Without the cover of the "Antique Roadshow" politeness, he told the court that in the commercial art world it would be no problem to find many buyers for the paintings he reviewed. Just as strongly he stated that he was against the move. He had been an adviser to the Barnes and had spoken out against the plan in the 1990's to sell some of the art from the main gallery. Once again the small town mentality of the lawyers had difficulty hearing what this art professional was saying. I felt that his message was that it would be better to save the Barnes as is by selling some very important art that is not in the primary gallery then disemboweling the whole Barnes.

Barnes Hearing sketches

To view my drawings from the hearings.

Courtroom Drawings

Barnes tax question

It seems to me that much of what is being disputed is based on what has to be seen as Dr. Barnes' creation of a tax shelter. Trusts were a way for those with wealth the means to protect those with sizable assets from tax liability. Much of the discussion about the language of the trust should be seen as Dr. Barnes' conflict with the idea of a trust being part of the public good. Further research concerning this historical relationship should be looked at when determining Dr. Barnes' intent.

"To correct this situation, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on February 25, 1913. Now, income taxes were a permanent part of the United States economy, and Congress could tax incomes however they saw fit.

In later years, the withholding tax was instituted, and with the increased employment during World War II, tax collections rose to forty-three billion dollars by 1945."
Tax history

What was the charitable reason for the trust that created the foundation and what language in the charter and bylaws directly indicate Dr. Barnes' intent? All non profit charities have to conform to the definition of the tax code to gain exempt status. Was this the tension that Dr. Barnes wrote to his lawyer about. Was he willing to give up control of his collection "for the public good"? Was he simply faced with a need to reduce his tax burden?

He clearly did not want to help artists by funding their work. He defined "art appreciation" in a very limited way. Was the promotion of education merely stated because it was the recognized reason for gaining tax exempt status? I have not seen any mention of any heirs to who the collection would have gone to. Was he childless? Was his desire simply to keep his collection together as a whole? What is the "public good" today?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Barnes solution

I found this link which supports my feelings, limited as they may be, about the Barnes issue. I like this quote from the essay: " The purpose of the Barnes Foundation was to disseminate Barnes' philosophy. As he stated this, "…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, for which there is and can be no substitute, and in which all persons who have the necessary insight share."".

The Pragmatic Eye and Inquiry into Educational Complexity, by Spencer J. Maxcy, Louisiana State University

It seems to me that the trustees plan would do nothing but allow the casual observer to view the art at the art museum planned.

Here are my concerns.
Is the Barnes- Dewey philosophy still relevant in our time?
Is the Barnes Foundation doing everything that it can to promote the ideas of Dr. Barnes?
Is it the role of the foundation to teach children the philosophy of Barnes- Dewey or is it the concept that Barnes wanted to educate teachers as a whole on how to teach art and develop curriculum to coincide with the Dewey methods of teaching?
Has anyone questioned the Foundation about whether they are following the concepts of Barnes?

I believe in finding win win solutions to conflicts. Given the fact of the school as its reason d'être, it would be possible for the Foundation to create a separate non profit museum for the purpose of exhibiting and collecting art that Dr. Barnes would have been interested in. Without removing the "Gallery" art from Merion, the rest of the collection could be used for a Parkway museum. The money raised at this separate museum controlled by the Barnes Foundation could be used for charitable purposes fully under the tax laws. The Museum of Modern art would be a great asset to Philadelphia. Money raised could be used to improve the collection to accession works that parallel those in the Barnes collection.

I doubt that this common sense solution would find much support with those who want to move the art but I bet the Public would find it wonderful.

Barnes mission

Today the tide shifted from the foundations point of view to the traditional Barnes formula. What started out as a rather dull recitation of the trustees side through the use of articles and original letters propertied to support their position. The sand shifted by the afternoon like the storm surge of a hurricane.

Professor Marie C. Malaro, museum expert on accession and deaccession, pulled the rug out from under the trustees argument. With simple words that might have been missed by the casual listener she with great authority proved that the majority of the collection are assets and other than the art restricted by the indenture can be sold, because The Barnes Foundation is a school and not a museum. There is simply no ethical or legal probation on using the assets, art in this case, for the educational mission of the foundation. Because there was no accession there can not be deaccession, which only applies to museums whose mission is to form and hold art in a collection. Her testimony clearly took the foundations side off guard and provoked a somewhat badgering cross examination.

With the cool of a legal expert and the demeanor of a respectful teacher, Ms. Malaro seemed to wait for the importance of her testimony to sink in with the lawyers.

Judge Ott, to his credit, took a very serious posture and facial expression. I almost felt, game over. For the first that I have seen he had no questions at the end of the testimony,

While the petitioners, who had allowed Ms. Malaro to testify because of time constraints, before they had finished presenting all their witnesses, had planed to call an other witness, they all agreed to end on Monday if possible.

Even the lawyer representing the Commonwealth of PA AG seemed to need time to digest the idea that they might be wrong in agreeing with the trustees position.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Barnes funding

If the Barnes collection is so important to the people of the Commonwealth of PA, then why does not the Governor step in and just help the foundation?
When the state wanted to expand the convention center they gave PAFA a large grant to move to the building across Cherry St.

Moving the Barnes must be seen as a way of packing Philadelphia with cultural destinations solely meant to help the city. There is nothing that draws a crowd more than Impressionist and modern art.

I wish those who are in favor of this move would just admit that they want access to the art, not to the defunct educational programs. No one seems to be willing to question if the Barnes teaching model is relevant. They just want to strip bare the collection. Yesterday the judge was able to get the trustee Harmelin, to state that the plan to recreate the galleries was not cast in stone.

It seems that the finances are less of the problem than the desire to simply have a more visible location.

Fallingwater is hard to get to, should it be moved to a park in Pittsburgh?

Modern fund raising depends on having a place where the wealthy can gather and bask in the glow of those icons they worship. That is the real plan.

Philly Inq report on hearing

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Barnes Hearing

I went to the Barnes hearing yesterday and was overcome by the stiffness of the atmosphere. The court room was full of lawyers, experts, students and residents. Those who represent the worst of Philadelphia culture and that Dr. Barnes would have fought against. Would the French avant guard artists he collected have been comfortable in this pack of aristocrats? The evidence was all about the value of the real property. The dispute over the value of land centered on the possible development of the Ker-Fael farmland. The value of the cultural existence was not even mentioned. Would anyone talk about subdividing Monets gardens?

The discussion of the "non- gallery" collection was even more astounding. The manner of valuing the collection as groups of objects gave no way for testing the basis for the appraisals. Nineteen paintings deemed "the most valuable" were discussed as to the different values given by the different experts. Judge Ott at one point even referred to ceramics that he had observed at Ker- Feal as common and worthless. There was no description of those items and therefore no way to value them.

The real issue that no one seems to be willing to talk about is the value of the "good will" of the Barnes Foundation. My grandfather who was a partner in the leading Philadelphia accounting firm of Parry, Linvell and Turner during the time of Barnes, 1920's to 1960, always stated the the only thing of value in the end was "ones good name".

This principal seems to have been forgotten in the art world. It seems to matter only what the fame of the art is and how much power that art can add to those who care for it. This is not about saving the Barnes as a art concept but rather about either keeping the quaint educational program or having a gallery that is the hot art destination in Philadelphia. Neither of these paths has anything to do with Dr. Barnes love of the interaction of visual art. I bet if he was asked he would treasure even the least of those things made by man. Was that not the point of putting "common " objects with "art".

Today the issue of the future plans might be discussed. Does it matter if the place that Barnes lived in with his art is recreated? Of course! To think that the experience can be replicated in a museum in Philadelphia with a multimedia entrance could do anything to maintain the ideas of Barnes is absurd. This would be the same as the cloisters in the PMA, held in a time capsule, removed from the context of the place. This is a Disneyesque view of how to make an art destination. Why does anyone think that the fake Barnes would be better? Why not just make high quality reproductions and put them up in Philadelphia? It would be far less expensive and valid, although just as absurd.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Art reviews

Tyler Green wrote that there was a lack of art coverage in some papers last weekend.


Is the lack of visual art coverage because there is nothing to report? Is there a true superstar after Picasso? I have wondered for some time why the art world is in trouble. If the average movie costs $63 million to produce and market, that is where the culture is. "What the Bleep" which I saw last Sat. seems to explore all the basic issues that the visual art world could, who are we and what are we doing? What are artists giving the public to excite them?

Sadly we seem stuck in a love of the past, i.e.. Barnes. While artists are scraping the bottom of the barrel for the scrapes of cultural funding.