Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More on the Barnes Dismissal

Not as much reaction as I would have thought to the dismissal of the latest challenge to the Barnes move.  Maybe it was such a non-surprise that it isn't worth commenting on (though I'm sure it came as a surprise to some).

The LAT's Mike Boehm has a report here, including that the Friends plan to appeal.

is a reminder that no matter how important a museum is to a member, donor or visitor, he or she is almost certainly not going to get through the courtroom threshold to complaint about it."

And Christopher Knight trots out the tired old argument that "a monstrous question mark now hangs over the future of charitable donations of artistic masterpieces in the U.S":  "Any number of potential living benefactors are among those watching the tragic Barnes saga unfold, and they are wondering the same thing: If his will was not sacrosanct, what about mine?"

To which I will trot out the same old responses:

1.  No one's will is sacrosanct.  Wasn't true when Barnes made his gift, isn't true today.

2.  Let's get real.   Or as lawprof Alan Feld put it:  "This disincentive should have only modest effect on rational donors who see that the modification of conditions results from the combination of changed circumstances and the passage of a long period of time."

3.  This is especially so since, as James Panero has shown, "the seeds of destruction were sown by the hands of Barnes himself" through "overly restrictive operating guidelines" and "leadership problems."  The Barnes really is a unique case.  It doesn't provide a very good precedent for a lot of future donor-intent trampling.

4.  In fact, if anything, the case sends exactly the right message to those potential living benefactors who are so intently watching the case unfold as they decide what to do with their masterpieces:  "Do we want the message to potential donors to be, no matter how poorly you structure your gift, no matter how overly restrictive your operating guidelines, no matter how ill advised your investment limitations, we will never violate your intentions?"