An art collection's new home in Philly

(CBS News) Priceless paintings are commonplace in the collection of the late Doctor Albert Barnes . . . a collection that returns to public view later this month. For art lovers, though, there's a divisive question . . . was the Barnes collection moved to its new location against his will? Rita Braver guides us through the controversy:

It's the greatest Cezanne collection in the world, according to Barnes Foundation director Derek Gilman - as well as the greatest Renoir collection in the world, and one of the great Matisse collections in the world.

And there's Van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso, Modigliani, and many other major artists - incredibly beautiful and important works, like Cezanne's masterpiece, "The Card Players."

When asked how much "Card Players" would be worth, Gilman replied, "My lips are sealed."

But just to give you an idea, a small "Card Players" study sold at auction this month for $19 million!

Though Gilman is hesitant to put a number on it, the collection has been valued at more than $25 BILLION. So its move into a gleaming new $150 million building in downtown Philadelphia should be cause for universal celebration. ,/P>

Instead, it is a move mired in controversy, going back to the man who amassed the collection beginning at the turn of the 20th century: Philadelphia doctor Albert Barnes.

Brilliant and eccentric, he made a fortune in pharmaceuticals - and started buying what was then considered "modern art."

It was not well-received when he showed it in Philadelphia, according to veteran civil rights activist Julian Bond, whose family had close ties to Barnes.

"The reviewers just poo-poohed, and the art establishment in Philadelphia poo-poohed this kind of art," Bond said, "and he just developed this enmity against them. Plus, he was an onerous kind of person. He didn't suffer fools well."

So Barnes erected a building to house the art, next door to his home in suburban Merion, Pa.

The director of the Barnes Foundation shows off the new Philadelphia home of its priceless art collection.
CBS

The Barnes Foundation was rarely open to the general public. Its main purpose, he said, was to conduct classes in art appreciation.

Barnes made very specific provisions for what would happen to the collection after his death, giving Lincoln University (the historically black college where Julian Bond's father, Horace, was then president) the power to nominate most of the trustees to run the foundation.

"It was partly because Barnes wanted to put his finger in the eye of people in Philadelphia - 'Take that! I'm going to put these black people in charge of it!'" Bond said.

Barnes died in a car crash in 1951, leaving about $10 million to support the foundation.

But by the 1990s, the institution was going broke. And thus began a series of legal battles, including one waged by the Foundation Trustees, to raise money by sending the art on tour, in violation of Barnes' wishes.

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