PHILADELPHIA — A citizens group that unsuccessfully fought to prevent The Barnes Foundation's move from its longtime suburban home is asking to have the case reopened, because the former CEO wrote that the foundation wasn't on the verge of bankruptcy when it sought to break the founder's trust.
"Bankruptcy was not the reason we filed the petition to move the Foundation to the city," stated the post dated June 22. "At the time the petition was filed, the Barnes Foundation had a cash surplus and we had no debt — none. But, saying so made the rescue so much more gallant."
Camp's statement "is shocking because it is absolutely contrary to the position and information presented by The Barnes Foundation during the hearings," Friends of the Barnes attorney Samuel Stretton said.
Testimony about the foundation's finances was at the crux of hearings that ultimately led a Montgomery County judge to approve the relocation in 2004, Stretton said. Friends of the Barnes cited transcripts of a December 2003 hearing in which Camp several times stated "we don't have any money" in response to questions about the foundation's financial picture but did not specifically use the word "bankruptcy."
A message for Camp was not immediately returned.
Barnes Foundation legal counsel Ralph Wellington said everything Camp and other Barnes officials said in court was "completely true and accurate." The Barnes had no debt because of stop-gap "bridge financing" provided by several charitable foundations to temporarily keep it afloat, and it had a cash surplus but the money could not be used for operations, Wellington said.
"All of the financials were completely public and in the record," he said.
"The Barnes had been in the red ... and the financial picture was getting worse each year because of the restricted access."
The $150 million modernist art palace opened in May on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as the new home of the multibillion-dollar collection of the late pharmaceutical magnate Dr. Albert Barnes. Opponents called the move a power play by Philadelphia's elites to bring the renowned collection to the city against its late owner's wishes.
A decade ago, the foundation asked a judge's permission to break Barnes' trust and allow the collection to relocate near Philadelphia's cultural attractions. They said the foundation's endowment was exhausted and it would go broke if required to remain in Merion, which the Barnes said imposed township zoning regulations strictly limiting the number of visitors.
Barnes, who died in 1951, had stipulated in a trust that his legendary trove of 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and thousands of other objects must forever "remain in exactly the places they are."
Camp also stated on her blog that the trust "also said very plainly, very specifically that if the Barnes Foundation was not viable in Merion, the collection should go to a Philadelphia institution."
Stretton acknowledged that "it is late in the game now with the Barnes Foundation open in Philadelphia," but argued that because the statement appears to contradict Camp's sworn testimony about the foundation's financial straits, the case should go back to Judge Stanley Ott to "sort this out."