Barnes art collection nears final days at old home

Fri Jul 1, 2011 5:32pm EDT
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By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - After nearly a decade of lawsuits and bitter debate, the world famous Barnes art collection is about to move from its original wooded, suburban setting outside Philadelphia to a bustling boulevard in the city's cultural district.

Workmen are still busy constructing the Barnes' new, modern building in an area of Philadelphia known as Center City that is home to government offices, shops, museums and open-air spaces modeled after the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Once it debuts in spring 2012, the new home is expected to cost $150 million, including expenses to move the collection.

The Barnes, named after Philadelphia physician Albert Barnes, who died in 1951, contains some 800 paintings by famous artists including 181 pieces from Renoir and 69 by Cezanne. The Barnes Foundation, which controls the collection, believes the paintings constitute one of the world's great collections of French impressionist, post impressionist and modern art.

But the Barnes' move from its stately mansion in Merion, a suburb that some civic leaders thought was inconvenient for tourists, has not come without a lot of complaints, and some recent visitors believe it should stay at its original home.

The collection's final day there is set for July 3.

"I am going to miss this so much," said Lynne Rosenbaum, of Marlton, N.J. "I think this is one of the jewels in the museum world," adding that she was "very upset" at the move.

Nearly a decade of litigation has taken place since the change was made public, and a largely critical documentary film, "The Art of the Steal," was released in 2010.

In fact, the legal wrangling has not quite ended. A further court hearing is scheduled for August at which a group called The Friends of the Barnes will ask the court, once again, to order the collection to remain in Merion forever, upholding the terms of Dr. Barnes's will.   Continued...