Mainline Media News reports that The Friends of the Barnes Foundation has filed a petition to reopen his 2004 decision to permit the gallery in Merion to move its art collection to Philadelphia.
The petition cites newly available indications of misconduct on the part of then-Attorney General Michael Fisher as revealed in the documentary “The Art of the Steal” by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. The statements by former Attorney General Fisher in the film reveal his active involvement with Lincoln University’s decision to drop their legal opposition to the Barnes Foundation’s petition seeking expansion of its Board and permission to transfer Albert C. Barnes’ art collection from Lower Merion to Philadelphia. Mr. Stretton maintains that then Attorney General Fisher’s actions neutralized his role as parens patriae for the Barnes Foundation, a charitable entity. In part, then-Attorney Fisher said in the film, The petition also addresses the claim put forth in earlier proceedings that the Barnes Foundation was unsustainable in its historic Merion setting and could only survive by moving from that 12-acre site to a location on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the support of fundraising by Pew Charitable Trusts, the Lenfest Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation, who paid the Barnes Foundation’s legal fees to pursue the matter in Court. According to a press release from the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, it is now known that $107 million in public monies for the project was appropriated in a Pennsylvania Senate Capital Spending Bill, but that the Court was not made aware of the appropriation. Then-Governor Rendell has since released $47.45 million toward the project in Philadelphia.
The petitioners request standing in order to present evidence that the Barnes Foundation is financially sustainable in Merion, and that remaining in the historic setting designed by Albert C. Barnes protects the Barnes Foundation from the significantly greater risks to which it would be exposed in a costly and much larger facility in Philadelphia.
Scheduled to be completed late in 2011, the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia is the first major addition to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in over sixty years and will become a vital part of the city’s cultural corridor. Construction began inthe fall of 2009.