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Columnist Charles Gray’s recent article (“The looting of Barnes’s vision,” 3/15/2011) criticized the relocation of the Barnes Foundation, an institution that houses an impressive and important art collection, from Lower Merion Township to Philadelphia. He argued that the move violated the will of Albert Barnes, the museum’s founder. Printed below are some comments we received in response to the column.


Gray’s article confirmed my suspicion that the outrage over the relocation of the Barnes Foundation is largely a front for crypto-conservative axe-grinding.

As he tells it, the move is the result of a heinous government plot to override Barnes’ posthumous wishes. He neglects to mention the 1999 audit showing the Barnes Foundation to be approaching bankruptcy, which set the whole process in motion. No doubt former governor Ed Rendell and others involved were thinking of the benefits for Philadelphia as well, but to paint the whole affair as a wicked conspiracy of “urban liberalism” is a miscarriage of journalism worthy of Fox News.

The logical conclusion of Gray’s arguments is that the best art is the least often seen. And while he clearly enjoyed his “pilgrimage” to Lower Merion, the Barnes collection will not be harmed by its relocation to a new and more accessible space.

The philosopher John Dewey, who was a close friend of Barnes, said it best — “As long as art is the beauty parlor of civilization, neither art nor society is secure.”

Thomas Patteson 2008 Master of Arts and current PhD candidate Letter to the Editor, via e-mail This letter was updated to correct Patteson's affiliation to the University.


After watching “art of the steal”, it’s hard not to agree with [Gray]

@Jeffreyw5000 commenting on a documentary that follows the story of the Barnes Foundation’s relocation, via Twitter


Barnes’ “vision” is not very relevant at this point. He died and gave control to his trustees, who pulled the trigger on all the things [Gray] denounce[s]. Blame the trustees for selling out his vision, not the government for “taking” a museum. The law can only care about Barnes’ vision for so long.

Morrissey via

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