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Posted March 5, 2010
A compelling read, a sad story
One of the most telling and amusing lines in Art Held Hostage is uttered by Richard Glanton, the Barnes Foundation's former president and the litigious centerpiece of John Anderson's story. In an indignant letter to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, Glanton wrote: "If you intend to do what you have done in the past, endeavoring to besmirch my reputation and cast doubts and innuendoes about my leadership, you shall be held to the same standard you are held to when you write about other cultural institutions in Philadelphia."
Glanton may have fancied himself a "cultural institution" - he once even said "I was the Barnes Foundation" - but he was hardly that. As the snippet above reveals, Glanton, a lawyer, comes across as a bully, an egomaniac, a conniver, and a shameless self-promoter. It isn't even clear he was especially interested in art. But in John Anderson's detailed, nuanced and engrossing account, Glanton, who also described himself as "the best politician you'll ever meet," was interested in power, and the Barnes as a means to that end. As Glanton himself stated when asked what the politicking at the Barnes was really about: "About who controls four-and-a-half billion dollars worth of art."
Today, of course, the collection is valued at much more - $25 billion - and the politicking has resulted in an apparent victory for the forces that would move the Barnes to downtown Philadelphia. Having just seen the collection in the serene and charmingly idiosyncratic setting in which Dr. Barnes intended it to be seen, however, I can only bemoan that lamentable result.
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Posted November 18, 2010
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