I recently saw a documentary about the movement of the Barnes Foundation collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Barnes Foundation is a private art school that houses "one of the finest collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings in the world, including an extraordinary number of masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181), Paul Cézanne (69), and Henri Matisse (59). The collection also includes important works by Pablo Picasso (46), Chaim Soutine (21), Henri Rousseau (18), Amedeo Modigliani (16), Edgar Degas (11), Vincent van Gogh (7), Georges Seurat (6), Edouard Manet (4), and Claude Monet (4)." When Albert Barnes died he left behind a very specific and detailed will that guarded against any of the works in his estate being sold or moved. However, the city of Philadelphia has managed to purchase the collection that they will move to their art museum in 2011.
The documentary brought many questions to the forefront:
Should the "masses" have access to these works of "high art?"
Is the "importance" of making these paintings more accessible enough to ignore the original owner's wishes?
Will the "value" of these paintings decrease once they are obtained by the public and included in a highly accessible museum?