Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Petition Filed for Reconsideration of Barnes Relocation

On Monday, August 27, 2007, the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, of Merion Station, PA, announced the filing of a Petition for Reconsideration with the Orphans' Court Division, of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, PA, regarding that court's previous approval of relocation of a portion of the Barnes Museum's art collection to Philadelphia.

The filing was announced on Monday, August 27th, at noon in a press conference planned by the FBF. In general (according to a press release), the Petition seeks, among other remedies, a review by Judge Stanley Ott of that Court's previously-approved (Dec. 13, 2004) opinion & order granting permission for the Barnes Foundation’s art collection to be moved from its present Merion site, established by the late Albert Barnes, to a new site in Philadelphia.

For background, see: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "
Next Round for the Barnes Foundation" (06/11/07).

The Barnes Foundation and its artwork were the subject of an extensive "cover story" article in LifeStyle Magazine, a regional publication, entitled "Will the Barnes Foundation Stay Put?" by Maryanna S. Phinn [links added]:

Friends of the Barnes Foundation formed shortly after the December 2004 landmark ruling in Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County. The court’s decision broke the will of the institution’s founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, which prohibited the permanent art and horticultural collections from ever being moved from Merion. The Barnes’ trustees petitioned the court for permission to move citing financial hardship after years of legal problems.

[Jay Raymond, a member of the citizens’ group, a current student and former faculty member] unsuccessfully tried to appeal the court’s ruling on behalf of some of the institution’s students.

“Ultimately, there was no appeal or review of the Orphans’ Court decision,” notes Raymond. * * *

“We feel that the circumstances are different now since the ruling,” says Raymond. The Friends of the Barnes, therefore, will not accept the move as a “done deal.”

Although facing an uphill battle, the group remains optimistic. They recently received a vote of confidence and renewed support from Montgomery County’s commissioners, who unanimously agreed to hire local attorney Mark Schwartz to investigate additional legal avenues to keep the renowned institution in Lower Merion Township. * * *

* * *[T]he Friends of the Barnes and Montgomery County aim to keep up their fight. Their position is supported nationally by leading art critics, curators and historians in blogs and commentaries in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, TIME Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer and many others.

Locally, the Friends have kept the issue alive through essays in The Main Line Times, coverage in The Evening Bulletin, and through public forums and debates. In May, a debate was held at Drexel University between Robert Zaller, professor of history at Drexel and Gresham Riley, former president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Zaller vehemently opposes the move, while Riley supports it. Their commentaries have frequently appeared on the Broad Street Review, an arts and culture opinion-based Web site. * * *

A Philadelphia City Council committee and the Fairmount Park Commission approved a 99-year lease agreement on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near 21st Street at the site of the current Youth Study Center, a juvenile detention facility. Philadelphia wants to replace the Youth Study Center with a new building, at an estimated cost of $55 million, but a new location has not been selected yet. Philadelphia may need to find a temporary location for 100 juveniles at an estimated cost of $10 million.

The City is also under time constraints. Under the lease agreement, the Youth Study Center must be vacated by May 2008 or the Barnes has the option of breaking the lease. * * *

The Broad Street Review had posted various opinion articles in 2007 about the Barnes Museum's proposed move:Little mention about the debate is found on the website of the Barnes Foundation. Instead, it promotes the extensive art collection, which includes Vincent van Gogh's Houses and Figure (1898, BF 136), copied above.

On the other hand, the home page of the FBF website
promotes its recent initiatives, which preceded its court action. See also: "Philly's Future" Blog, under its "Update on the Barnes Foundation".

The anticipated filing of a petition was first announced in a FBF Press Release, dated August 24, 2007, and explained again in a further FBF Press Release, dated August 27, 2007. The latter described the requests in the petition
Friends of the Barnes Foundation, together with students and neighbors of the Barnes Foundation, filed a petition today in Montgomery County Orphans’ Court.

The Petition requests that Judge Stanley R. Ott reopen the proceedings to examine new evidence and to rescind his previous orders including the order granting permission to the Barnes Board of Trustees to move the Foundation’s gallery collection to a site in Philadelphia.

The Petition further requests that Judge Ott remove the present Board of Directors and place the Foundation in receivership.
The matter now moves, again, into the courtroom of the Orphans' Court Division, in Norristown, PA.

Update: 08/28/07:

Articles noting the filing of the Petition for Reconsideration include:
Update: 09/14/07:

Montgomery County, PA, joined the fight by way of its filing made in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, on September 12, 2007, for reconsideration of the Court's prior order in view of changed circumstances.

PA EE&F Law Blog post "Montgomery County PA Joins Barnes Fight" (09/14/07).

Update: 05/19/08:

On May 15, 2008, the
Orphans' Court Division, of the Montgomery County (PA) Court of Common Pleas, per Judge Stanley R. Ott, issued a Memorandum Opinion (8 pages) that denied "standing" to the Friends of the Barnes Foundation and the County of Montgomery in the litigation referenced as The Barnes Foundation -- Petitions to Reopen Proceedings.

PA EE&F Law Blog posting
"No Standing" for Barnes Foundation Petitioners (05/19/08).