Thursday, July 12, 2012

"[T]here is no doubt about who the big winner is: the general public, which now can enjoy unprecedented access to a peerless cultural patrimony"

Noted philistine Martin Filler -- writing in that leading organ of philistinism The New York Review of Books -- says the new Barnes is "a triumph for all concerned."  The piece, titled "Victory!", is not available online, but is worth seeking out.

Among other things, he takes on the "malign and melodramatic" Art of the Steal, which portrayed the move "as an act of naked thievery."  He calls it, by contrast, a "civic rescue mission," more "comparable to a desperate family's intervention aimed at saving a shared inheritance from being squandered by an incompetent, out-of-control relative."

As he summarizes the backstory, "Barnes's overly conservative investment directives reduced his foundation's solvency," and its resources "were further diminished by a costly lawsuit over a proposed parking lot on its property in an upper-class residential neighborhood opposed by local residents, and sapped through extravagant spending by some of its officials."  The end result was that the foundation "was effectively bankrupt by the turn of the millenium."  ("Effectively," not actually.)

He also points out that, thanks to vastly improved lighting, "visitors can see these fabled works better than at any time since Barnes bought them."  But he doesn't say anything about the Exit signs that ruin the whole thing.