I am a bad Pennsylvanian. Having always been an art lover and sponge for art history, I spent my youth going to every art museum you can think of. Despite having gone to the Met, oh, maybe 300 times in my childhood, I never quite got around to making the two hour trip to Merion, PA to visit one of the greatest collections of Post Impressionist art in the world: The Barnes Foundation. And now, time is running out. This weekend, I finally saw the documentary The Art of the Steal. By the time it was over, I was full-out outraged, mouth agape, ready to take to my soap box (Crew Design) to lambast some Philadelphia establishments.
So gather round readers, and hear the gist of this crime: before his death in 1951, Albert C. Barnes writes a will protecting his personal collection from ever becoming a commercialized museum, instead mandating it be preserved for education and only open a few days a week to the public—never to be moved from it's original, idyllic location in Merion. If you've ever been to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, you may be aware that she set up similar mandates for her collection, and her predecessors have taken great care to adhere to her wishes. Not so for Barnes: having had no family and no one to fight for him after he was gone, his $25 billion dollar collection is being moved to Philadelphia by some VIPS and government officials with lots of money but little compassion for a dead man's wishes. Or for art! One of our nation's great museums will not be preserved, and yet another generic, white-walled piece of architecture will pop up in it's place by the year 2012. The documentary may be biased, but there is little room for debate—this is a case of flat-out theft.
Sadly, the film comes too late for activism, but my personal New Year's Resolution? Without being TOO dramatic... eh, what the hell—to get to the Barnes Foundation in it's original location now, before it's too late. ••••