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News Flash: No Barnes Decision Appeal by Montgomery County UPDATED TWICE

Back row, left to right: Montgomery County Commissioners Joseph Hoeffel, James Matthews and Bruce Castor Jr.

Montgomery County will not appeal Judge Stanley Ott‘s recent reaffirmation of his previous permission for the Barnes Foundation to move from Merion, PA, the county’s communications director, John Corcoran, just informed me. And a spokesperson for the Friends of the Barnes has told me that they would “probably not appeal.” [UPDATE: The Friends, an ad hoc concerned-citizens group, have now officially announced that they will not appeal.] The commissioners had held discussions on the question last week. Today was the deadline for filing notice of appeal.

Here are the comments of the two commissioners who were against the appeal. (The third, Bruce Castor Jr., had previously expressed support for an appeal, but was in Ireland and not available for comment.)

—Chairman James R. Matthews:

We’ve exhausted any real chance of overturning Judge Ott’s decision. I just can’t see how antagonizing the Barnes Foundation with virtually hopeless litigation will help us negotiate an arrangement where Lower Merion and Philadelphia share the collection.

Commissioner Joseph Hoeffel:

We do not have a reasonable expectation of reversing the four-year-old court decision allowing the Barnes to build a gallery in Philadelphia. Any further appeal of the recent decision denying standing for the county could bring sanctions against the county taxpayers. We should now work with all parties to keep as much as possible of the Barnes operation in Montgomery County.

Good luck with that. I highly doubt that the Barnes is going to “share” the collection (as Matthews suggests) with Merion, except for the horticultural material. The key part of the plan is to move the celebrated art collection to Philadelphia intact, installing it exactly as it was in Merion. Breaking it up among two venues would occasion more howls of protest against doing violence to the donor’s already mangled intention.

The county’s press release was not online at this writing. But you can read all about the student, Aliyah Martinez (above with commissioners), who won the recent eagle-naming contest.

UPDATE: The press release has now been posted here.

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