Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"The forces leading to [the move] are far more human, contradictory, and mundane than any Manichean conspiracy theory would have it"

The Philadelphia Inquirer's excellent Stephan Salisbury has a piece in today's paper taking on the Barnes conspiracy theorists:

"Ultimately, it was Lincoln [University]'s control, not greedy city elites, that led to the fateful 1990 decision to install prominent attorney Richard Glanton as foundation president, which launched the series of events leading to the Parkway move. . . .

"By the late 1990s Glanton was out and the foundation was bleeding money. The trust indenture barred most investments; Glanton's litigious excesses took a spectacular toll on the dwindling endowment. The Barnes ... cast a wide net seeking solutions.

"Beginning in the Glanton era, when financial issues began to press sharply, casual talk of a possible move to Philadelphia ... was discussed by many interested parties. In early 2001, [Raymond] Perelman, then chair of the [Philadelphia] art museum, openly speculated about it in the New York Times and The Inquirer, as did former Mayor Ed Rendell - now Pennsylvania's governor - and others.

"That political and cultural leaders welcomed the notion of the Barnes in Philadelphia was no secret at all, and three major foundations, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Lenfest and Annenberg foundations, ultimately devised a plan to make it happen. Their proposal was announced in September 2002.

"Virtually simultaneously, the state legislature authorized use of up to $107 million in capital funds for move-related construction - if the state money ever became available, and if state lawmakers decided to spend any of it.

"At the time of the authorization, no Barnes move had been approved by the courts. But then again, no money was appropriated. The authorization/appropriation distinction seems lost on those whose criticism of supposedly secret funding has supplied grist for the conspiracy mill.

"Yet it was Barnes himself who set the highly restrictive terms of the trust indenture; who incorporated no penalties for the foundation should trustees violate the indenture's terms; who failed to resolve tension between a supposedly public facility and exclusionary admissions practices; who staffed the board and foundation with apostles to ensure his will in perpetuity.

"Instead, for nearly 20 years the Barnes has been the subject of rancorous dispute and litigation, leading to what some would call farce and others, tragedy. No conspiracy has been necessary."