The Great Alfred Barnes Will Battle is over -- the new, taxpayer-assisted, drive-right-up Barnes museum on Ben Franklin Parkway is built and displaying hundreds of Monets and Renoirs and allied Impressionists and supporting artworks: it is, visitors tell us, a beautiful place.
The battle has just begun -- to make an impression on Pennsylvania trust law and inheritance thinking, where would-be legators and legatees and their trust counselors are still digesting the lessons from City Councilman Cecil B. Moore's successful civil-rights-era effort to break Stephen Girard's 1831 will leaving the bulk of Girard's millions to a city-run school for "white, male" orphans. (The 'anti' arguments in that case, though withdrawn and reversed, are still being reviewed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in another, current case that could hobble Girard College and make its Fumo-era tax-free bonds, taxable.)
The Barnes battle -- which gave effective control over the Barnes collection to the people who own or manage the city's great media (Annenberg, Lenfest, Roberts) and industrial (Perelman, Pew) fortunes, and moved it, very much over the dead pill magnate's objections, from his beloved home and tree reserve in Lower Merion, to a site just downhill from his enemies at the Philadelphia Museum of Art -- is still reverberating, as Bryn Mawr Trust Co. found when it invited Mark Schwartz, the former Pennsylvania legislative aide, muni bond banker and whistle-blower who represented Barnes move opponents in the early years of their doomed legal challenge before state Judge Stanley Ott, to give a Continuing Legal Education credit course, at the Merion Cricket Club, before a standing-room crowd of 75 estate lawyers, accountants and bankers this morning.
Judge Ott, Schwartz noted, expressed "total frustration" with a Barnes board that controlled "181 Renoirs" but still claimed to be unable to meet its budget. Of course, Ott, in the end, ruled in favor of the move. "I'll never understand," sighed Schwartz.