FAQ on The Pew Charitable Trusts' Role in the Barnes Foundation Move

FAQ on The Pew Charitable Trusts' Role in the Barnes Foundation Move

The Pew Charitable Trusts has provided support to the Barnes Foundation as part of our longstanding commitment to protecting and preserving cultural treasures held in the public trust. Most recently, we have taken great pride in serving as an advocate and fundraiser for the Barnes as it plans to relocate its world-class art collection from suburban Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, to a new location on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about Pew's role with the Barnes Foundation.

Q:  Why is the Barnes Foundation moving?

A:  The Barnes Foundation is moving its gallery from Lower Merion to Center City Philadelphia as the only feasible solution to severe and chronic financial problems. If these problems had remained unaddressed, the Foundation would have been unable to pay its bills. The physical security of the individual artworks and the integrity of the collection as a whole would have been at risk.       

Q:  What is Pew's role with regard to the Barnes Foundation?

A:  Pew's role has been as an advocate and fundraiser. We, along with other donors, helped to raise $150 million (which includes our own funds) to build a new facility in Philadelphia, relocate the collection and establish an endowment to ensure the Foundation's future security.  In addition, Pew provided interim operating support, enabling the Foundation to stay open in its Merion location.  We acted not only to sustain the Barnes in the short term, but also to help put it on sound financial footing for generations to come, and as an independent institution accessible to all audiences, as Dr. Barnes wished. 

Q:  How much has Pew contributed to the Barnes Foundation?

A:  Pew has made grants totaling $24,350,000 to support the Barnes Foundation, which includes $20 million to support the costs related to the new facility.

Q:  Was Pew's involvement in the relocation of the Barnes Foundation gallery motivated by its desire to meet the public support test required to attain public charity status?

A:  Pew's role with the Barnes was neither motivated by nor necessary for our application to become a public charity. Our work with the Barnes Foundation was one of four examples we included in our Form 1023 petition of Pew's ability to attract public support. The examples were chosen from a long list of qualifying projects. Pew qualified as a public charity irrespective of our work for the Barnes. 

Q:  Does Pew have any control of or governing role with the Barnes Foundation? Did Pew set out to take over the Barnes?

A:  No. The Barnes Foundation is led by an independent board of trustees. The Barnes came to us after determining that its very existence was threatened and that it could not accomplish its mission or survive in its Merion location. We agreed, and provided much-needed support for its operations and long-term plan. Pew is not involved in operating the Barnes Foundation and we are not represented on the Barnes board.  

Q:  Does Pew have any control or ownership of the Barnes Foundation's artwork?

A:  Absolutely not. Pew does not have any ownership of or control over the Barnes Foundation or its collection of artwork.  Control over the assets and programs of the Barnes remains vested exclusively in its board.

Q:  Aren't Pew and others being unfaithful to Dr. Barnes's intentions by moving the collection?

A:  Rarely reported, the governing document establishing the Barnes Foundation states that if the Foundation were no longer financially stable and needed to move, it would have the option to do so. The Montgomery County Orphan's Court granted the Barnes Foundation request to relocate the art collection after years of litigation and weeks of hearings. The judge carefully reviewed the alternatives and agreed that the move to downtown Philadelphia was the best solution to the severe problems facing the Barnes Foundation.

Q:  Why didn't Pew participate in The Art of the Steal, the documentary about the Barnes Foundation?

A:  We learned that the film was going be severely biased. Given our institutional commitment to the facts and quality information, we decided it would be inappropriate to participate.

For more information about the Barnes' move to the Parkway, please visit the Barnes Foundation website