One wonders why, more than three weeks after the fact, Barnes Foundation board chairman Bernard C. Watson's speech at the new museum's "groundbreaking" was printed in Currents (Verbatim, Sunday). Could it be that The Inquirer, which has been backing the move from the get-go, is making sure the "story" behind the move is quite clear? In this version of the story, it was Watson who approached the three charitable foundations to get their support for the struggling Barnes in 2001. The last "groundbreaking," in October of 2008, had Gov. Rendell, by his own account, along with billionaire Raymond G. Perelman, hatching the plan to move the collection in 1995. The Watson version apparently makes for a better "official" story.
It doesn't mention Rendell's gift of $30 million in state funds for the move, which, in light of other struggling arts institutions throughout the city, looks pretty bad. It also doesn't mention the $80 million in tax dollars promised to Lincoln University in 2003 to keep it from opposing the move. It doesn't mention that the $30 million that the Annenberg Foundation donated to the move could have been simply given to the Barnes in Merion, making all plans to move unnecessary. It doesn't mention that Montgomery County offered the Barnes $50 million in a buyback arrangement, and that the trustees refused that offer within a week without even considering it seriously.
It doesn't mention that Lower Merion allowed the Barnes up to 144,000 visitors a year because of a special exception to the zoning laws for educational institutions, which was prompted by requests by neighbors of the Barnes. It doesn't mention that there has never been a serious fund-raising campaign that asked alumni to give money to keep the Barnes where it is. It does say that none of the foundation officials supporting the move is on the board of the Barnes, but it doesn't say they were all first vetted by the Pew Charitable Trusts.