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Rent-a-Barnes: Disregarding the Founder’s No-Parties Intent

Returning repeatedly to the Barnes Foundation’s website to see whether there was any acknowledgement of the death of its general counsel (which has now been reported as a suicide in an obit by Stephan Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer), I stumbled across the Special Events section.

It appears that CultureDaughter, still engaged in her nationwide mission to find the perfect wedding venue, could hold her reception right here:

Bride and groom in the new Barnes Court, under its “stunning glass canopy”

Wait a minute! Didn’t the stern founder/collector, Albert Barnes, expressly prohibit such expensive frivolity? Let’s take a look at his trust indenture:

{December 6, 1922} 33. The purpose of this gift is democratic and educational in the true meaning of those words, and special privileges are forbidden. It is therefore expressly stipulated by the Donor that at no time after the death of said Donor, shall there be held in any building or buildings any society functions commonly designated receptions, tea parties, dinners, banquets, dances, musicales or similar affairs, whether such functions be given by officials, Trustees or employees of the Barnes Foundation or any other person or persons whatsoever, or whether such functions be private or public [emphasis added].

It is further stipulated that any citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who shall present to the courts a petition for injunction based upon what reputable legal counsel consider is sufficient evidence that the above mentioned stipulation has been violated, shall have his total legal expense paid by the Barnes Foundation.

I remember there was a time when Richard Glanton, the former Barnes Foundation head (who famously put the collection on tour while the Paul Cret-designed Merion mansion was restored and renovated), circumvented the letter of this no-party stipulation by hosting an event in an outdoor tent.

I assume that the current Barnes administration would justify violating the spirit of Barnes’ no-special-privileges edict on the grounds that the parties will be held in the expanded Philly facility (never envisioned by Dr. Barnes), not in the gallery spaces. Whatever the technical loopholes, it seems clear that Rent-a-Barnes runs afoul of the founder’s clearly stated wishes, as does another passage on the foundaiton’s “Events” webpage:

The Corporate Council and Circle members at the Patron level.and higher enjoy exclusive entertaining privileges [emphasis added].

What about events at the original Merion site? It looks like those will be held in Dr. Barnes’ former residence and on the grounds, not in the former galleries:


Here’s the online pitch for merryment in Merion:

Whether you are planning an evening cocktail reception, an intimate
afternoon garden party, or a corporate meeting, Dr. Barnes’s residence
and the surrounding gardens offer a unique venue for you and your

Sounds like “special privileges” to me. But it could be a good place for CultureDaughter‘s rehearsal dinner! (Just kidding.) I wonder what the Barnes’ neighbors may say about this suburban residential street’s turning into Party Central.

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