Verbatim: Comments by Barnes Board Chairman Bernard C. Watson

Publication: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Author: Bernard C. Watson


12/06/2009 - Comments by board chairman Bernard C. Watson at the Nov. 13 groundbreaking for the new, $150 million Barnes Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

"When I joined the Board of Trustees of the Barnes Foundation in 1999, the foundation's finances were in shambles. The final decade of the 20th century had seen the foundation incurring annual deficits and depleted financial resources, resulting, in large part, from an endless series of expensive and acrimonious lawsuits, going back as early as the 1950s. The foundation's ability to prosper, or indeed survive, in its Merion location was exacerbated by local regulations limiting visitation to the galleries.

"Accordingly, in 2000, the board commissioned Deloitte & Touche to develop a long-range plan, which would enable us to restore the foundation to financial health within its Merion setting. By late 2001, however, it was becoming increasingly clear to the board that these efforts were not succeeding. Philanthropists and foundations were simply not giving money to an organization that had a legacy of expensive and distracting litigation, no credible business plan, or a governance structure that would make implementation of such a plan possible. None of the people who continue to raise their voices in angry objection to moving the collection to the Parkway reached into their pockets to support us in any meaningful way in Merion."

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