Publishers frequently send me books to review, and sometimes one of them really stands out as a jewel… that’s the case for Art Held Hostage: The Battle Over The Barnes Collection. I remember the privilege of seeing the Barnes back when it was still housed in its original space–a phenomenal collection to be sure–and so I was particularly interested in hearing what had happened since then.
Albert Barnes made two fortunes, one in pharmaceuticals, the other in art, and it’s for his art collection that he’s remembered today–his collection when he died included 69 Cezannes (more than in all the museums in Paris combined!), 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus, 14 Modiglianis, and 180 Renoirs. He left his collection in the care of Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in America. In 1989 (38 years after Barnes’ death) Lincoln gained majority control of the foundation board–and the plot thickened.
Philadelphia attorney Richard Glanton embroiled the Barnes in an ego-driven saga of legal wrangling and bitter infighting that kept the collection hostage. In 2002 the trustees announced their intention to move the collection into a new building… and the plot thickened even more.
This is a work of nonfiction that reads like a legal thriller, and I recommend it heartily. Check it out!