I liked and respected Brett Miller, the Barnes Foundation’s general counsel since January 2010, and I am saddened by the news (reported by Helen Stoilas of the Art Newspaper) that he was found dead this weekend at his home. There’s nothing about this, at this writing, in the Phladelphia Inquirer. No cause of death has yet been disclosed.
That Miller, an intellectual property expert, was widely respected by his peers in the museum-law profession was demonstrated by his status as faculty co-chair at last month’s three-day conference on “Legal Issues in Museum Administration,” organized by the American Law Institute of the American Bar Association. He was doubtless influential in getting the keynote speaker’s spot at that San Francisco conference for his boss, Derek Gillman, the Barnes’ executive director and president.
Although he knew which side I was on in the Philly Barnes controversy, Brett was friendly and helpful when I showed up (shortly after he had assumed his post) as an unexpected (and probably unwelcome) visitor at the successful presentation by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien to the Philadelphia Arts Commission of their plans for the Barnes Foundation’s new facility. While I strongly disagree with the move, I did agree (scroll down) with most of Miller’s reasoned arguments, in an Art Newspaper opinion piece, against those who characterized the Barnes move as a “theft.”
As noted in his Barnes bio, Miller received a B.A. in art history
from Emory University and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. He had previously served as associate curator of collections of the Norton
Museum, West Palm Beach.
He will never live to see the May 19 opening of the new facility that he worked so hard, in good faith, to facilitate.
I will update with further information (and, I hope, a photo), when available.
TUESDAY UPDATE: It is surprising (and disturbing) that no more information has yet surfaced as to the cause of Miller’s death. I have now heard a strong rumor (from a reader unknown to me), but will not publish anything without further verification.
The Barnes did not answer my query about the cause of death, nor did it provide me with Miller’s age or send me a requested photograph. In response to my query, it did send me this official statement from Derek Gillman:
The Board of Trustees and the staff of the Barnes Foundation are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our colleague and friend Brett Miller. Brett was a hugely valued member of our executive team, and for three years worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the Foundation. He will be greatly missed. We offer heartfelt condolences to his family.