Yes, Victoria, someone is accountable for the Barnes

The Barnes debate is over (a reply)

3 minute read
Victoria Skelly's recent BSR posting, "Stifling debate about the Barnes," is based on a false assumption— namely, that there is still a debate.

Well, there is, of a sort; but it's not the one Skelly has in mind. No final decision has yet been made about the design of the new facility that will house the Barnes Collection on the Parkway. So Skelly and other interested parties still have time to register their opinions with the Barnes Foundation's trustees. The debate about the future location of the Barnes Collection, however, is over.

Unfortunately, opponents of the relocation mistakenly think that because the design issue remains open, so does the move itself. Hello, is anyone listening? The latter debate is over, and has been since December 13, 2004, when Judge Stanley R. Ott of the Montgomery County Orphans Court ruled in favor of the Barnes trustees' petition to restructure the Foundation and to relocate the collection— a ruling upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Opponents of Judge Ott's ruling have tried to create the impression that the issue is still open in the mistaken hope of creating a groundswell of public opinion that will somehow (the "how" never specified) negate the judicial rulings. Such a belief is simply out of touch with reality. So long as the Foundation's board, the three foundations that have agreed to finance the relocation, and Philadelphia's city government accept the permission granted by the courts, the debate is over.

Skelly asks: Where does the buck stop with this Barnes situation? And who is accountable? The courts are accountable for the legal issues, and the Foundation's trustees are accountable for actions they take with the courts' approval.

Opponents of the collection's relocation (including, I assume, Ms. Skelly) now seek to use the approval process of the architectural designs for the new Barnes as an occasion for debating an issue (to move or not to move) that has been settled. Moe Brooker, the Philadelphia Art Commission's chair, rightly limited remarks at the Commission's recent hearing to the architectural designs. The latter, after all, is the only issue the Art Commission is charged to review.

Rebuffed, the opponents are now crying "Foul" because they were prevented from debating a closed topic, which (even if still open) was beyond the jurisdiction of this body.

No one is stifling "debate," as evidence by the continuing voices of opposition to a settled issue. But the Barnes Foundation board is the one body with authority for what happens to its collection and for the design of the facility in which the collection will be housed.

The buck stops with the board. I suspect that this answer, no matter how obvious, won't satisfy those who can't acknowledge a lost cause.♦

To read responses, click here.

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