Barnes passes $200M mark for new home

Posted: June 28, 2011

The Barnes Foundation announced today that it has surpassed the $200 million fund-raising target for construction of its new facility on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

The foundation, which has struggled financially in its longtime location in Merion, also reported that it has seen rapid growth in museum membership - from 400 members two years ago to over 10,000 now.

"Surpassing our initial fund-raising mark and attracting thousands of members clearly demonstrate enthusiasm for the Barnes Foundation's compelling vision of access and openness," said Bernard C. Watson, chairman of the foundation's board of trustees, in a statement.

The announcement means that about $40 million in new donations have been booked over the last year or so. Officials provided no details about the sources of the funds, although they said all donors were private. No additional public funds have been received. The state of Pennsylvania has provided about $47 million toward construction.

Of the $200 million now raised by the foundation, $150 million will go toward construction of the Philadelphia building and associated costs, and $50 million will go to the foundation's endowment.

"The Barnes has long been handicapped by the lack of an adequate endowment, and this initial endowment is a critical step forward." said Derek Gillman, Barnes executive director and president.

Gilman said the funding would "allow us to continue our core educational programs while making the collection so much more accessible to an expanded audience of visitors and students."

Founded by wealthy patent-medicine maker and art collector Albert Barnes, the foundation is steward of a renowned collection of Impressionist and early Modernist paintings.

Since determining a decade ago that relocating the collection to Philadelphia would provide the foundation its best chance for financial survival, the Barnes has been embroiled in litigation.

The institution is governed by a trust indenture drawn up by its founder that directed that the paintings and other artifacts remain in place in Merion. But a 2006 ruling in Montgomery County Orphan's Court allowed the move.

Another round of litigation brought by tenacious opponents of the move is now before the court, with a hearing set for Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the gallery building in Merion will close permanently on Sunday in preparation for the move. The new Philadelphia facility is expected to open next summer.

Officials said fund-raising continues.

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