YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Barnes' dilemma

August 24, 2003

The Barnes Foundation is in an untenable position ("Another Sort of Culture Vulture," by Christopher Knight, Aug. 17). It is bound by the will of its founder. It has insufficient financial resources to continue as it is. It has been having financial difficulties for at least 15 years and no white knight has come forward -- or is likely to -- to perpetuate the Merion location. And even if all the financial problems could be resolved, it has an access problem. The neighbors don't want traffic, and they don't want street parking.

Perhaps the solution is, like the Getty's, to maintain a portion of the collection at the current facility while moving the bulk of the collection -- and the traffic -- to a more hospitable location. This should be more palatable both to the judge who has to invalidate at least a part of Barnes' will to allow this and to philanthropists willing to fund a new location.

Kevin Cronin

Playa del Rey


The Barnes Foundation galleries were something to be achieved, to be seen and enjoyed, I thought. When I finally had the time several years ago to visit, I, unlike the people Christopher Knight knows who were to a person awed, was infuriated.

There are great pieces of art in that collection, but the display of the art in its "idiosyncratic" manner, with all that silly hardware on the wall, can barely be seen and cannot be studied because of the arrangements and the perpetually failing Pennsylvania light. Pragmatism would have suggested a compromise with the real. The donor was not a true pragmatist or a person truly interested in democracy, but an ideologue with views so peculiar that he escaped broader criticism only because of his overwhelming wealth.

If the courts allow a change they will liberate great art that can be seen in a context that will allow greater access by greater numbers of people who may have their lives transformed. If the art fulfills its transformative potential, the courts will have served a pragmatic and democratic good.

Richard P. McDonough


Los Angeles Times Articles