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Access to Art Collection Paints a Strange Picture

September 05, 2002

A few years ago, when friends and I were in Philadelphia for the Cezanne show, we went to the Barnes Foundation to see its collection ("Great Art Framed by Turmoil," Sept. 3). We took the train out to Merion and walked the few blocks past the stately mansions (and the Episcopal boys school that an old friend had attended). We didn't add to the vehicle traffic, but when you see the area you can understand why they would not necessarily want a commercial enterprise in the middle of it, along with the traffic it brings.

The problems all go back to the eccentric Dr. Albert C. Barnes. It is a pity he had such a narrow vision for what to do with his vast collection of masterpieces (although his 181 Renoirs are 180 more than anyone really needs). While I am in total agreement with the Barnes mission in society, it is a shame it is so narrowly dictated today by a man long gone, with each side being a little too antagonistic toward the other.

This is a collection that deserves to be enjoyed. I saw paintings that I had never even seen pictures of in art school because of the foundation's restrictions.

It is a shame it can't all be moved to a place where everyone could have access.

Jerry Otwell Rutledge

West Hollywood


Having been fortunate to have visited the Barnes Foundation three times, I can say that other museums I have been to, such as the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, pale in comparison. The City of Brotherly Love should unite--not fight--to enable this magnificent art collection to be shown to the public. We had to park four blocks away to gain admission.

Its selfish neighbors should be working on ways toward helping, not hurting, the foundation. The courts should be working on ways to permit more cash flow; i.e., authorize more travel shows, sell off a few paintings not on display. I'm sure Barnes would have done this if he could have been as farsighted in this area as he was in selecting this outstanding collection.

Bill Cole


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