The Toronto International Film Festival brought stars to town and brought an estate issue into focus. The Art of the Steal received accolades as a “thrilling whodunit” about the world-renowned Barnes art collection, valued in the “billions and billions.” Dr. Albert Barnes assembled art in the twenties and housed it in the suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania.
On his death in 1951, Dr. Barnes’ will gave control of the collection to the trustees of Lincoln University, the first black university in the United States. However, according to the film’s producer, in the nineties, a scheme was hatched to permanently remove the collection from Merion that some would later call the heist of the century.
The trustees’ decision to move the exhibit to downtown Philadelphia was met with legal challenges that did not succeed. On a site called The Barnes Letters it seems interest groups used the courts to deviate from Dr. Barnes’ express wishes to focus on “an educational organization designed to promulgate a unique way of teaching art appreciation.”
At an opening ceremony for the new site, protestors marked the occasion with signs advocating that Barnes’ “…Will Should Be Honoured.”
Art disputes relating to trusts and foundations are not uncommon. Here in Canada, one example involves a long-standing legal dispute between the U.K. Beaverbrook Foundation which claims that it only loaned art to a New Brunswick gallery – art that originally belonged to New Brunswick newspaper baron Max Aitken. (See Paul Trudelle’s September 14, 2009 blog).
These examples point to the idea that a testator’s expressed wishes for certain assets may not always be respected. Dr. Barnes wanted his art to stay put, while it was alleged that Lord Beaverbrook’s art was gifted to the people of New Brunswick.
Have a good Monday.
Jonathan Morse – Click here for more information on Jonathan Morse.
This week on Hull on Estates, Diane and Craig discuss what to consider when dealing with experts and expert reports in cross examination.